Anesthesia is used to block the sensation of pain to provide patients with a surgical experience free of worry or discomfort. The type of anesthesia administered to a patient depends on their medical history, as well as the type of procedure and duration.
Local anesthesia involves numbing a small area by injecting a local anesthetic under the skin where an incision is to be made, which causes a patient to lose sensation in a very specific area.
Regional anesthesia is used to numb a portion of the body without putting the patient into a state of unconsciousness. Regional anesthesia includes spinal anesthesia and epidural administration, both of which cause a loss of sensation in the lower body.
Conscious sedation is when an anesthesiologist delivers depressant drugs and/or analgesics. The patient feels no pain and does not remember the period of time he or she is under anesthesia. In addition, even though the patient may fall asleep, they can remain conscious enough to respond to any questions or to swallow or cough. Conscious sedation is often used in conjunction with regional anesthesia. A colonoscopy is a common procedure where conscious sedation is used.
General anesthetics produce an unconscious state in which a patient is pain-free, immobile and free from any memory of the period during which he or she is anesthetized. General anesthesia can be delivered as an inhaled gas or as an injected liquid.