There are three major types of anaesthesia: local, general and regional. They can be used individually or in combination as deemed appropriate in order to provide the best possible pain relief and surgical outcome.
To determine which type of anaesthetic – spinal, epidural or general – is best for you both the doctor and yourself will discuss it based on a variety of factors such as your medical condition before surgery, the kind of operation being done, plus other considerations that could affect your wellbeing.
Local anaesthesia is applied through an injection under the skin of the proposed surgical site. It is a very effective method in dealing with small surgeries such as simple fractures, dislocations of fingers or small lacerations. It can also be used in minor elective procedures such as the release of trigger fingers or removal of skin lesions.
General anaesthesia is administered intravenously and by inhalation. This type of anaesthesia works on the brain, leaving you in a deep sleep. Usually application of a general anaesthesia starts in the anesthetic bay where the anaesthetist, along with their technician, connect you to several monitors and insert one or more intravenous access points into your limbs through which medications will be given that will make you drowsy. An oxygen mask is applied to your face and you will be asked to take a deep breath. You may notice a funny smell in the mask, don’t be alarmed this is only the anaesthetic. Once you are asleep the anesthetist will insert a tube into your throat and hook this tube to the ventilator.
It is our routine practice that we use specialised monitoring systems that keep us well informed of the depth of anesthesia at any point to ensure sure there is no chance you will wake up or become conscious during the operation.
Regional anaesthesia involves numbing a specific area of the body, without affecting your brain or breathing. It requires the injection of local anaesthetic to major nerve bundles which supply a particular area of the body such as the leg, forearm, hand, shoulder or abdomen. With this type of you may remain awake and have the choice to watch the surgery on the monitor screen such as in case of knee arthroscopy. Or you may receive sedation to relax you and put you in a light sleep and state of semi-consciousness.
There are a number of different types of regional anaesthesia. The most common are spinal, epidural and plexus block anaesthesia. Spinal and epidural anaesthesia are commonly used for joint replacement surgery of the hip and the knee. Plexus blocks are commonly used for upper limb surgeries.