Anesthesia Definition and Types: General to Regional

What is Anesthesia?

Chances are you or someone you know are considering a medical procedure requiring general or regional anesthesia in Houston, and you want to know the definition and how it works. Simply put, it is using a medication called an anesthetic drug or gas to control pain and provide pain relief.

According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, anesthesia can help control breathing, blood pressure, blood flow, heart rate and rhythm.

Anesthesia Options for Hand Surgery in Houston, Texas

  • General anesthesia
  • Local anesthesia
  • Regional anesthesia
Anesthesia Definition and Types

General Anesthesia

During general anesthesia, you will remain unconscious and not feel anything during the surgery. Your anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will administer the anesthetic gas or intravenous (IV) sedation medication to control pain and make sure you are not awake during the procedure.

General anesthesia is typically used in more complex hand surgeries, tendon transfers or accidents involving automobiles or power saw injuries.

Local Anesthesia

If you are having hand surgery for a small area, then your doctor may choose local anesthesia. This means that you will have a medication injected to numb the site and remain awake during the entire procedure. The loss of sensation could last up to 3 days.

Typical types of hand surgical procedures allowing for local anesthesia include trigger finger surgery and ganglion cyst removal.

Key benefits of local anesthesia:

  • Can make movements of hand and fingers for surgeon feedback
  • Stops excessive bleeding
  • Minimizes pain in treatment area

Regional Anesthesia or Nerve Blocks

The drugs used in regional anesthesia provide a numbing sensation to your body along nerve pathways. They are injected with a needle and may be administered with an IV to the collarbone area or neck, under your arm, or in the wrist, palm or fingers. This serves to both allow numbing as well a pathway for Dr. Ashford to stimulate and test your nerve to make certain of it’s location.

At times this procedure may be somewhat uncomfortable or slightly painful. If so, drugs to relax you and make you comfortable can be given through this IV line as well.

Key benefits of regional anesthesia

  • Less need for postoperative pain medication
  • Faster recovery time vs general anesthesia
  • Less nausea
  • Lowered blood loss
  • Less risk of blood clots

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What to Expect

You and Dr. Ashford will discuss each type of anesthesia prior to your hand surgery procedure along with your individual health and condition. The type and length of the surgery and area of the body are also major considerations and may dictate which anesthesia option is preferred.

While some patients prefer to be awake during the procedure, there are times when this is not recommended or possible. Patients who do remain awake will not be able to visualize the surgery because a sterile sheet covering called a “surgical drape” will be placed between you and your surgeon. This protects and provides a sterile barrier to lower risk of infection.

Upon the day of arrival for your procedure, a fellowship-trained anesthesiologist or certified nurse anesthetist will review your medications as well as your blood pressure and other medical history with you. This will allow for the optimal pain management during the procedure.

Following your surgery, post procedure instructions will be covered as well as at home pain management and care.

Anesthesia Risks for Regional and Local Anesthesia

While risks remain low and are rare for both regional and local anesthesia, some could occur and include:

  • Pain
  • Soreness
  • Bruising at the injection site
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve injury

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