Types of anesthesia
General anesthesia causes you to be unconscious during surgery. The medications used to induce and maintain unconsciousness are either inhaled through a breathing mask or tube, or injected through an intravenous catheter - a thin plastic tube inserted into a vein, often called simply an "IV". A tube may be inserted into your windpipe to maintain an air passage during surgery. Once the surgery is completed, the anesthesiologist stops the anesthetic, and you wake up in the recovery area.
Monitored Anesthesia Care or MAC provides pain medications and sedatives through an intravenous line. The surgeon or anesthesiologist will also inject local anesthetic under the skin. While you are sedated, the anesthesiologist continually monitors your vital body functions.
Spinal anesthesia is often used for lower abdominal, pelvic, rectal or lower extremity surgery. This type of anesthetic involves injecting a single dose of local anesthetic directly into the fluid around the spinal cord in the lower back, causing numbness in the lower body.
An epidural is similar to a spinal anesthesia. It is also commonly used for surgery of the lower limbs, as well as during labor and childbirth. For this type of anesthesia, medicine is injected through a thin catheter that has been placed into the space that is near the spinal cord and nerves. This causes numbness in the lower body.
Peripheral nerve blocks
Peripheral nerve blocks are performed by injecting a local anesthetic close to the major nerves that go to a particular part of the body, such as an arm, leg or foot. These injections are performed away from the spinal cord. Peripheral nerve blocks can last up to 24 hours; this can be extended to several days by using small soft tubing to provide continuous infusion of numbing medication. This type of anesthesia is often used in combination with general anesthesia.
Your physician may order a peripheral nerve block that will remain in place when you go home. The home pump allows pain medication (analgesia) to continue to flow to the surgery site, making your transition to home less painful. The home pump remains in place for about two days after surgery and then is removed at home.