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Anesthesia Options, Risks, and Side Effects
What are your options for anesthesia?
Depending on the type of procedure and your health status, you may have a number of options for anesthesia.
- Local anesthesia: only the surgical area will be anesthetized.
- Regional anesthesia: a larger part or portion of the body is anesthetized. Epidurals and spinals are both forms of regional anesthesia that involve precise injections of anesthesia in appropriate areas of the back.
Epidurals, where anesthesia is given below the level of the spinal cord through a special needle, are often used for childbirth, but are also an option for many orthopedic procedures because they can provide extended pain relief.
Regional anesthesia for extremity surgery involves injecting anesthetics into an area where there is a concentration of nerves for that particular extremity in order to block pain. This allows the patient to be awake for surgery and provides pain relief for a time after surgery.
- General anesthesia: IV medications and anesthetic gases induce temporary unconsciousness so you cannot feel pain during the operation. Our operating rooms are equipped with the latest technology to monitor a patient’s level of consciousness which can help determine the amount of medication or anesthetic agent needed to meet the needs of each individual patient.
- Sedation anesthesia: pain relievers and sedatives are given to minimize pain and discomfort during a procedure. You are able to communicate during the procedure, but there is often little memory of the procedure afterwards.
What are the risks of anesthesia?
While usually very safe, no procedure is without some degree of risk and your anesthesiologist will discuss this with you prior to your surgery. Many factors contribute to the increased safety of general anesthesia, including safer drugs, more extensive training of anesthesiologists, and national standards of care. You should discuss any concerns with your anesthesia professional.
What are possible side effects of anesthesia?
- Nausea and vomiting are more likely with general anesthesia and lengthy procedures. In most cases, nausea does not last long and can be treated with anti-emetic medicines.
- Hypothermia (low body temperature) may cause you to feel cold and shiver when you are waking up due to a mild drop in body temperature that is common during general anesthesia. Special measures are taken during surgery to keep your body temperature from dropping too much.
- Impaired coordination or judgment can result due to the effect general anesthetics can have on the central nervous system. You may feel drowsy, weak or tired for several days and have blurred vision and fuzzy thinking. You should not drive, operate machinery, or perform other activities that could endanger yourself or others for 24 hours or longer.