What is Anaesthesia?

Anaesthesia also spelled as Anesthesia is a medicine specialty related to providing patients with anaesthetic drugs in appropriate dosage in special scenarios such as surgeries.

Anaesthesia is derived from Greek meaning “loss of sensation”. This is a reversible condition meaning after a while the patient will come out of the “loss of sensation” state and will be back to normal after some time.

Anaesthesia deals with taking the patients to a state of amnesia temporarily during which painful procedures such as surgery can be done without the patients experiencing pain. The dosage of anaesthesia depends on several factors such as the patient’s age, type of surgery to be performed, patients’ body state etc. Doctors who specialize in Anaesthesia are known as Anaesthetists.

Anaesthetics are used for pain relief during tests or surgical operations so that you do not feel any of the following:

  • Pain
  • Touch
  • Pressure
  • Temperature

Types of Anaesthesia

The different types of anaesthesia are as follows

Local Anaesthesia
This is used where the loss of sensation is needed in a part of the body for say a minor operation.
During this mostly the patient will be awake.

General Anaesthesia
This is used when loss of sensation of the full body is required in case of a major operation.
Here both the brain and the body is affected and the patient will be sleeping.

Regional Anaesthesia
This is used when loss of sensation is needed in a wider area compared with that of the Local Anaesthesia such as a limb. Here the patient will be awake.

When is Anaesthesia needed?
Anaesthesia is done when the patient suffers in pain and wants to be relieved from it temporarily for undergoing a surgery. The decision whether to give anaesthesia or not is taken by the physician based on several factors such as the cause of pain, patient’s medical history, surgery time etc.

Local Anaesthesia
The technique known is used in order to reduce or remove the sensation felt by a patient in a certain body part for a temporary period of time.

When patients have pains that aren’t surgical related, this method is again used in some cases. In certain cases, both local and general anesthesia can be used at the same time.

The term is used in different ways, depending on the part of the body which is affected. For example, the term local anesthesia is used when it’s needed for a small body area, like a skin part or a tooth. The regional anesthesia is used when the patient needs a larger area worked on, like an entire arm or leg.

The local anesthesia which appears is reversible and it can cause both paralysis and a loss of the sensation of pain.

Local anesthetics can vary depending on their properties and there are different techniques, for which they can be used, from infiltrations to epidurals, topical anesthesia or spinal anesthesia.

General anesthesia
Here the patient is put into a reversible sate of unconsciousness. The entire body is anaesthetized, and allows the surgeon to perform the surgery painlessly.

The techniques in administering general anesthesia have had advanced in leaps and bounds in the last few decades, increasing the safety of all these procedures. It has also allowed surgeons to perform all the major and minor surgeries without pain or risk to the patient’s life.

Following certain protocols have made general anesthesia safe like: keeping the stomach empty prior to induction of anesthesia, keeping the stomach empty till there is complete recovery from anesthesia , usage of newer drugs etc.

Epidural Anaesthesia
An epidural is a type of anesthesia which is of the regional type and it involves injecting drugs into the patient with the help of a catheter which is inserted in the epidural area. The end result of an epidural is both analgesia (pain loss) and anesthesia (the loss of sensation) and it does it by not allowing nerve signals to be transmitted in the vicinity of the spinal cord.

The epidural area is a place found in the spinal canal, but not in the dura mater membrane. The dura membrane comes in contact with the arachnoid membrane, which contains cerebrospinal fluid.

Paediatric Anaesthesia
Unfortunately, children do need to go through operations when emergencies appear and in such cases they need to be anesthetized. Recent advances in medicine have made the process much easier and safer for the children, though it’s still a source of worries for the parents.

The children that need to go into surgery no longer need to be in the hospital a long time before the operation begins. In most cases they will get to the hospital just hours before the operation needs to begin. The parents accompany the kids when they visit the doctor and they are present when the anesthetics are administered. In less extreme cases, the anesthetic can be just a cream that is placed on the target area. At least one of the parents is with the child during the procedure, as it will make him calmer.

The doctor will usually begin the process by making an injection which is placed in a vein, an injection that doesn’t hurt as much since the anesthetic cream takes most of the pain away. In other cases, doctors like using gas anesthetic, especially when the child fears needles a lot.

Once the operation is done and the child is close to waking up, the parents can come back to the room in most cases, as it gives him a familiar face when he wakes up.

Anaesthesia Side Effects
Even though there is a bit of risk with any anesthesia type, large complications or side effects aren’t that common. The risks that appear will depend on a number of things, from the way someone reacts to anesthesia, to the method used and the health of the patient.

The chances of suffering from side effects increase depending on a number of personal risk factors. One of them is the age of the patient, as older people have a higher chance of suffering from side effects. When the patient suffers from circulation, nervous system or heart problems, he also has an increased chance of suffering from side effects. As usual, people that drink, smoke or use drugs that are not legal also tend to be more susceptible to this kind of problem.

Local Anaesthesia is usually quite safe, unless it’s not done properly. If the doses used are too high, the effects can be toxic for the body. The end result in this case would be significant side effects for the patient’s blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing. Whenever local anesthesia is used, emergency care equipment should be available as well.

Local Anaesthesia is usually quite safe, unless it’s not done properly. If the doses used are too high, the effects can be toxic for the body. The end result in this case would be significant side effects for the patient’s blood pressure, heartbeat and breathing. Whenever local anesthesia is used, emergency care equipment should be available as well.

If the patient is healthy for the most part, general anesthesia shouldn’t have any major side effects. Since general anesthesia targets the entire body, there is an increased chance of experiencing side effects than it is with regional or local anesthesia.

Your physician will explain the risks to you clearly before you undergo any procedure. A few basic tests will help the anaesthetist to determine how safe it is to administer anesthesia to you. In some cases it may be necessary to go for extensive evaluation to determine the status of various organs of the body prior to administering anaesthesia.