Anaesthesia: What You Should Know
Anaesthesia uses medications known as anaesthetics to prevent patients from experiencing pain during medical procedures.
What is anaesthesia?
Anaesthesia derives from the Greek "without sensation”. The medications used in anaesthesia work by blocking the signals that pass along your nerves to your brain, blocking pain, discomfort and other sensations during medical procedures. Once the effects of the medication wear off, normal sensation gradually returns.
What are the types of anesthesia?
There are three main types of anaesthesia that patients may receive, depending on the type of procedure or surgery they are undergoing:
General anaesthesia (GA) induces controlled unconsciousness during which a patient feels nothing. During a GA, patients usually breathe with the aid of an anaesthetic machine. General anaesthesia is essential for some operations. While a patient is unconscious, the anaesthetist t in theatre looks after them with great care and stays near them all the time throughout the procedure.
Regional anaesthesia (RA) involves injections that numb a larger or deeper part, or specific parts, of the body. The main regional anaesthetic techniques include spinal or epidural anaesthetics.
- Spinal anaesthesia is used for lower abdominal and lower extremity procedures. It involves injecting local anaesthetic and other pain-relievers into the subarachnoid space (an area near your spinal cord). This numbs your nerves to give pain relief in certain areas of your body.
- Epidural anaesthesia is often used during labour and childbirth, including caesareans or for treating back or leg pain that's caused by sciatica, or a slipped (prolapsed) disc.
- With regional anaesthesia, patients remain conscious, they won't feel pain in the area of the operation or procedure. Usually, your anaesthetist will use an ultrasound machine to identify the exact position of the nerves to guide the needle used to inject the local anaesthetic. Regional anaesthesia (RA) can either be used alone, together with a general anaesthesia (GA) or sedation to improve pain control.
Sedation (commonly called Procedural Sedation and Analgesia (PSA)) involves using small amounts of anaesthetic and analgesic mediation to make the patient feel drowsy and relaxed, but conscious. These medications are given to change patients’ consciousness in order to facilitate a procedure. Since patients are not fully unconscious, they may or may not hear what is going on around them and even feel something. They may remember little or nothing about the operation or procedure, but it does not guarantee that they will have no memory of the operation. However, Procedural Sedation and Analgesia (PSA) allows patients to tolerate otherwise uncomfortable procedures.
The department of anaesthesia provides assessment, anaesthesia and care for patients undergoing a wide range of complex surgical procedures.Learn more
Who administers anaesthesia?
An anaesthetist (also known as an anaesthesiologist) is a medical doctor/consultant with specialist training to provide general anaesthesia, regional anaesthesia, or procedural sedation and analgesia. The anaesthetist prescribes the anaesthetic medication and manages the pain before, during and after surgery.
The anaesthetist will discuss with the patient about the different types of anaesthesia that are suitable and safe for the specific surgery or procedure.