What is anaesthesia?
The word anaesthesia means ‘loss of sensation’. It can involve a simple local anaesthetic injection which numbs a small part of the body, such as a finger or around a tooth. It can also involve using powerful drugs which cause unconsciousness.
These drugs also affect the function of the heart, the lungs and the circulation. As a result, general anaesthesia is only given under the close supervision of an anaesthetist, who is trained to consider the best way to give you an effective anaesthetic but also to keep you safe and well.
The drugs used in anaesthesia work by blocking the signals that pass along your nerves to your brain. When the drugs wear off, you start to feel normal sensation again.
A local anaesthetic numbs a small part of the body. It is used when the nerves can be easily reached by drops, sprays, ointments or injections. You stay conscious, but free from pain. Common examples of surgery under local anaesthetic are having teeth removed and some common operations on the eye.
This is when local anaesthetic is injected near to the nerves which supply a larger or deeper area of the body. The area of the body affected becomes numb.
Spinal and epidural anaesthetics
These are the most common regional anaesthetics. These injections can be used for operations on the lower body, such as Caesarian section, bladder operations, or replacing a hip. You stay conscious, but free from pain.