For Patients & Visitors: What is Anesthesia?

The Use of Medicine to Prevent Pain

_12If you’re scheduled for surgery, you may have questions or concerns about anesthesia. The thought of being unconscious or temporarily losing sensation can be downright unnerving.

From a minor procedure with a shot to numb the area to a more serious surgery in which you will be “asleep,” knowing the basics about anesthesia may help answer your questions and ease some concerns.

Basically, anesthesia is the use of medicine to prevent the feeling of pain or another sensation during surgery or other procedures that might be painful (such as getting stitches or having a wart removed). Given as an injection or through inhaled gases or vapors, different types of anesthesia affect the nervous system in various ways by blocking nerve impulses and, therefore, pain.

In today’s hospitals and surgery centers, highly trained professionals use a wide variety of safe, modern medications and extremely capable monitoring technology. An anesthesiologist is a doctor who specializes in giving and managing anesthetics — the medications that numb an area of the body or help you fall and stay asleep.

In addition to administering anesthesia medications to prepare you for the surgery, the anesthesiologist will:

  • monitor your major bodily functions (such as breathing, heart rate and rhythm, body temperature, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels) during surgery
  • address any problems that might arise during surgery
  • manage any pain you may have after surgery
  • keep you as comfortable as possible before, during, and after surgery

A specially trained certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), resident physician, or student nurse anesthetist, who work with the anesthesiologist and surgeon, may assist in giving you anesthesia.