Anesthesia: An Overview

Choices of Anesthetic

This is, of course, the issue that patients are most interested in, and which will frequently be the main point of discussion between you and your anesthesiologist.

There are four types of anesthesia that are commonly used:

  1. General Anesthesia: The whole patient is deeply unconscious and completely unaware of what is happening. Multiple medications are used and frequently anesthetic gases are included in the anesthetic.
  2. Regional Anesthesia: A part of the body is made numb with local anesthetics, usually by blocking the major nerves sending signals to and from a part of the body. This includes spinal anesthetics, epidural anesthetics and major nerve blocks. Almost always this is accompanied by sedatives to decrease anxiety, and painkillers to supplement the freezing.
  3. Local Anesthesia: This is the infiltration of drugs to numb the affected area, a procedure most familiar to people as the ‘freezing’ they receive at the dentist’s office.
  4. Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC): Anesthesiologists are increasingly moving out of the operating room to emergency rooms and free-standing outpatient facilities to offer services to patients undergoing procedures such as cataract surgery, endoscopy, radiological interventions and cardiac procedures. These complex and sometimes invasive procedures are becoming increasingly common, and keeping patients comfortable, still, and cooperative is essential to their success. Anesthesiologists are frequently now working on supervisory roles as they lead Anesthesia Care Teams, which Ontario’s anesthesiologists helped develop. In these teams, highly trained respiratory therapists and nurses are in direct contact with the patients, under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, who remains available at all times to offer help and to intervene, should an emergency situation develop.