Anesthesia: Side Effects and Benefits

Anesthesia: Side Effects and Benefits

If you ever have had surgery, whether minor or major, you most likely must have heard of the doctor talking to you about anesthesia. He must have informed you that this medication is given to keep you from feeling any pain or discomfort during the operation. It sounds so ideal, right? But what really is this magic drug that makes you numb from pain? Let us discover what anesthesia is, its benefits, types, and what are the common anesthesia side effects and risks that we need to take note of.


Anesthesia background

Anesthesia is a physical state of temporarily losing sensation or consciousness as induced for medical reasons. This state includes analgesia (no feeling of pain), paralysis (loss of movement), amnesia (loss of memory), and loss of awareness, all depending on the type of anesthesia being used. An anesthetic is a medicine or chemical substance that is used in anesthesia.


Types of anesthesia

There are three main types of anesthesia based on the level of need and the range of effect that a specific medical procedure needs.


Local anesthesia

anesthesia monitoringThis is the type of anesthesia that is indicated to numb a small area of the body. The only goal of this kind of anesthesia is to prevent the patient from feeling any pain during the procedure. This type is typically used for minor operations, skin biopsy, and treatments that need suturing.


Local anesthesia side effects

This type is the least likely to have side effects, mainly because of its superficial effect and the limited area or scope of the medication. Some patients may report feeling itchy at the injection site; others report it as a mild discomfort. If you have past experience with a certain local anesthetic that gave you any side effect, inform your doctor so that he may administer a different kind to counter the side effect.


Regional anesthesia

This type of anesthesia is where a medication is injected in an area close to a group of nerves to induce numbness in a major part of the body. The most common site used for regional anesthesia is the spinal area.


Types of regional anesthesia

anesthesia during surgerySpinal anesthesia. The anesthetic is injected using a spinal syringe into the fluid around the spinal cord. The administration is done only once, but the effect is instantly felt. The numbness and paralysis are evident from the abdominal area to your toes since the medication is introduced directly to the spinal area.

Epidural anesthesia. The anesthetic is also injected in the spinal area but just outside the spinal sac. This type got its name because the medication is injected into what is called an epidural space. The effect of this type is gradual, slowly numbing the area until the full effect is reached after 10 to 20 minutes. This type of regional anesthesia uses a tube catheter that is connected to your epidural space so that the anesthesiologist can add more medication during a lengthy surgical procedure.

Peripheral nerve block. This type of regional anesthesia targets the cluster of nerves on the patient’s extremities where surgery requires. Two of the most common type is the femoral nerve block (for the leg), sciatic/popliteal nerve blocks (for the knee, calves, and thigh), and the brachial plexus block (for the arms).


A big misconception about regional anesthesia is that it also makes the patient unconscious. Well, that is not always the case since this medication is intended to numb the body area alone. Surgeons and anesthesiologists combine regional anesthesia with sedation if they deem it necessary, especially if the patient is extremely anxious, or the surgery would require hours to complete.


Regional anesthesia side effects

The most common side effect that patients complain about this type of anesthesia is a headache. This effect can be felt for the first few days after the surgery if the spinal fluid leaks out of the spine. It is moiré frequently complained when spinal or epidural anesthesia were the ones administered. Regional anesthesia that is directed to the spine can also cause back pain, urinating issues, and a more serious complication like pneumothorax, an adverse effect that can happen if the medication is injected into the lung area instead of the spine.

Other side effects that should be considered are bruising/hematoma, pain, or worse, nerve damage. These adverse effects more often than not go away after a few days. However, since the level of sedation varies for each patient, doctor, and procedure, it is crucial to be monitored during the operation to ensure that you would least likely experience these effects. Discuss with your doctor the ways that you can avoid getting these complications and side effects from regional anesthesia.


General anesthesia

general anesthesia side effectsThe name of this type of anesthesia says it all. This is the all-out effect of anesthesia, where you will lose sensation, consciousness, and movement. It is essentially compared to a medically-induced coma. The anesthetic may be administered through an IV or inhalation (mostly for kids). While under the effect of general anesthesia, the patient is rendered unconscious, unresponsive, and may even experience loss of memory.


General anesthesia side effects

General anesthesia, while very safe, is the type that most expected will cause adverse effects. If your surgical procedure would require having this type of anesthesia, your surgeon and anesthesiologist should actively monitor your condition during and after your operation to address any side effects and watch for the likelihood of encountering serious complications.

The most common general anesthesia side effects are headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, sore throat, muscle pain, chills, and confusion. More serious side effects may be considered as delirium, cognitive dysfunction, and severe muscle contractions with fever or hyperthermia that can lead to heatstroke.




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