Levels of anesthesia (least to most) include: local, conscious sedation, regional and general anesthesia. The choice of anesthesia depends on the nature and duration of the procedure, as well as your health. These options will be discussed during your preoperative anesthetic interview.
This type of anesthesia is used to block pain to a specific area of your body, and allows you to remain fully alert. This type of anesthesia is usually used for very small, superficial procedures.
This type of anesthesia is used to help you relax and make you feel sleepy. It typically includes administration of medications through an intravenous line to help minimize discomfort. You are not completely asleep, even though you may not remember much of the procedure. Conscious sedation is frequently combined with regional or local anesthesia.
This type of anesthesia is used to block sensation to a specific region of your body, such as an arm, leg or the entire lower half of your body. Local anesthetic medication is injected near a single nerve or group of nerves that supply the area involved in the surgical procedure. A spinal, epidural or caudal may be administered to eliminate pain in the lower half of your body for procedures on a leg, pelvis or for child birth. An axillary, interscalene or bier block may be administered to eliminate pain for procedures on an arm, hand or shoulder.
The benefit of regional anesthesia is that it will provide dense anesthesia to a limited area, while having no or little effect on other areas, such as your heart, lungs and brain. It also helps control postoperative pain because the area remains numb for a period of time after the surgery.
This type of anesthesia is used for larger procedures or procedures that are not amenable to regional anesthesia. Medications are given either through and intravenous line or are inhaled through a mask which will make you go to sleep. These medications affect all areas of your body, including heart, lungs and brain. Because you are completely asleep, a general anesthetic requires the use of a mask or breathing tube.