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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Anesthesia
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Anesthesia is a way to control pain during a surgery or procedure by using medicine called anesthetics. It can help control your breathing, blood pressure, blood flow, and heart rate and rhythm.
Anesthesia may be used to:
Other medicines may be used along with anesthesia, such as ones to help you relax or to reverse the effects of anesthesia.
The type of anesthesia used depends on several things:
Your doctor or nurse may prefer one type of anesthesia over another for your surgery. In some cases, your doctor or nurse may let you choose which type to have. Sometimes, such as in an emergency, you don't get to choose.
Major side effects and other problems of anesthesia aren't common, especially in people who are in good health.
But all anesthesia has some risk. For example:
Your risk depends on the type of anesthesia you get, your age, your health, and how you respond to the medicines used. Some health problems, such as heart or lung disease, increase your chances of problems from anesthesia. Taking certain medicines, smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs can also increase your chance of problems.
Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about the best type for you and will review risks, benefits, and other choices.
Your doctor or nurse will let you know what to do the night before and the day of the procedure. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
If your child is having surgery or a procedure, you can help him or her prepare. Let your child know what to expect. Be honest if he or she might feel pain. Be sure to tell your child that you will be close by.
Before and during surgery, an anesthesia specialist will take charge of your comfort and safety. He or she will give you the anesthesia and closely monitor you. This means he or she will check your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and other vital body functions throughout the surgery. During surgery, the anesthesia specialist also will continue to give anesthesia to keep you free of pain.
When the procedure is complete, you will stop getting the medicine. How quickly the anesthesia wears off depends on the anesthetics and other medicines used, your age, your health, and on your response to the medicines.
After surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room. A nurse will check your vital signs and any bandages and ask about how much pain you have. If you are in pain, don't be afraid to say so.
When you first wake up from anesthesia, you may be confused. Or it may be hard to think clearly. This is normal. Don't do anything for 24 hours that requires attention to detail. This includes going to work, making important decisions, or signing any legal documents.
Some effects of anesthesia may last for many hours after surgery.
For minor surgeries, you may go home the same day. If surgery is more complicated, you may have to move to a hospital room to continue your recovery. If you stay in the hospital, your doctor or nurse will visit you to check on your recovery and answer any questions you have.
Other Works Consulted
Brown DL (2010). Spinal, epidural, and caudal anesthesia. In RD Miller et al., eds., Miller's Anesthesia, 7th ed., pp. 1611–1638. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone.
Dalens BJ (2010). Regional anesthesia in children. In RD Miller et al., eds., Miller's Anesthesia, 7th ed., pp. 2519–2700. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone.
Dorian RS (2010). Anesthesia of the surgical patient. In FC Brunicardi et al., eds., Schwartz's Principles of Surgery, 9th ed., pp. 1731–1752. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hilton L, et al. (2009). Anesthesia, local. In B Narins, ed., Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery and Medical Tests: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers, 2nd ed., vol. 1, pp. 68–72. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale.
Sanford TJ (2010). Anesthesia. In GM Doherty, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Surgery, 13th ed., pp. 135–150. New York: McGraw-Hill.
White PF, Eng MR (2010). Ambulatory (outpatient) anesthesia. In RD Miller et al., eds., Miller's Anesthesia, 7th ed., pp. 2419–2459. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone.
Wiener-Kronish JP, Fleisher LA (2016). Overview of anesthesia. In L Goldman, A Schafer, eds., Goldman-Cecil Medicine, 25th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2617–2620. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Yip P, et al. (2009). Non-pharmacological interventions for assisting the induction of anaesthesia in children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3).
Current as of:
May 27, 2020
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineJohn M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology
Current as of: May 27, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & John M. Freedman MD - Anesthesiology
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