General Anesthesia typically creates a state of unconsciousness using a variety of medications that may include pain relievers, sedatives, muscle relaxants, and anesthetic vapors. Often a patient’s breathing is controlled with a ventilator, which requires the insertion of an oral airway tube, either an endotracheal tube, or a laryngeal mask airway.
Regional Anesthesia uses nerve blocks with local anesthetic to numb a region of the body. Examples include epidural and spinal anesthesia. These techniques are often used in conjunction with sedation. Regional anesthetics offer the advantage of allowing the patient to control their own breathing functions, and be awake and aware, but feel no pain. Epidural blocks allow mothers to have their babies without pain, and be able to experience the birth in relative comfort.
This method is often used by surgeons to remove small skin lesions, biopsy superficial tissues, or to suture small wounds. In some cases sedation may be used along with local anesthesia.
Monitored Anesthesia Care
Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC) is a technique where an anesthesia provider is requested by the surgeon to provide close medical monitoring during surgery for a patient receiving local anesthesia. Intravenous sedation is often employed in this setting. Under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, more aggressive sedation may be employed. In some situations, patient cooperation is required during the surgery, and only light sedation is used. For other types of surgery more profound sedation may be required.