What is anesthesia?
It is pronounced an-ess-thee-sha. It is a medicine used during procedures and surgeries that causes a loss of feeling in all or part of your body. There are different types. The best type of anesthesia for you depends on:
- The type of procedure you are having
- Your health
- Your preferences
This puts you in a deep sleep. It is not like the normal sleep you have at night.
- You get the medicine by breathing it in through a mask or in a vein through an IV.
- You will not feel or remember anything with this kind of anesthesia.
This numbs just the part of your body where you are having the procedure. It is given as an injection (shot). For example, if you are having a procedure on your thumb, the anesthesia is injected in your thumb and only numbs your thumb.
- You will be awake during the procedure.
- You may also be given other medicines to make you feel relaxed or sleepy (sedation).
This is medicine that makes you relaxed or sleepy.
- It is often given through a vein.
- Many people can still follow instructions when sedated.
This numbs a larger part of your body. During the procedure, you will not feel any pain in that area of the body. For example, if you are having a procedure on your thumb, regional anesthesia will numb your arm.
- You also may be given sedation.
The 3 types of regional anesthesia are:
- Spinal: Medicine is given in your lower back with a needle. This stops pain and movement signals from going to your brain. The needle is taken out after the medicine is given.
- Epidural: Medicine goes into your body through a small tube in your back. The tube is often attached to a pump that gives you the amount of medicine you need. The tube is taken out after the medicine is no longer needed to control pain.
- Nerve block: Medicine is injected near nerves to control pain during the procedure. Sometimes a small tube is placed near the nerve. The tube is attached to a pump that gives you the amount of medicine you need. The nerve block will stop or lower your pain for a few hours after the procedure.
Who will give me anesthesia?
- A doctor called an anesthesiologist or a certifies registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). A CRNA is a nurse with special anesthesia training.
- Someone from your anesthesia care team will stay with you while you are asleep. They make sure your body is working well during and after the procedure.
- A resident doctor or student nurse anesthetist may be part of your care team. They are supervised by experienced doctors and CRNAs.
Will I wake up during the procedure?
- It is rare to wake up during a procedure if you have general anesthesia.
- In the operating room, machines help us measure the amount of medicine you are getting and how deeply you are asleep.
What are the risks of anesthesia?
Some surgeries or diseases may put you at a higher risk for complications. Before your procedure, you will have a chance to talk about the risks with your anesthesia care team.
Minor risks are more common. They are:
- Feeling sick or vomiting (throwing up) after the procedure
- Having a sore throat, teeth, or lips, or trouble swallowing
- Feeling pain or having bruises on your arm where the IV was
- Bruising or redness on your skin or some numbness. This can happen from the pressure of lying down during the procedure. Most of the time this does not last after your hospital stay.
- Having a backache or headache after spinal or epidural anesthesia
Major risks are very rare. They are:
- Drug reaction
- Heart attack
- Lung problems
- Nerve damage or paralysis
- Brain damage
- Coma or death
Before your procedure, you may:
- Get a phone call from a nurse
- Go to the Presurgical Evaluation Clinic at UI Hospitals and Clinics (Elevator F, Level 1). In the clinic, you will:
- Meet with internal medicine staff who specialize in preoperative evaluation
- Give your medical history
- Talk about your plan of care
Before your procedure, the care team will:
- Talk with you about your medicines and allergies
- Tell you which medicines to take before your procedure
- Talk with you about stopping or changing the medicines you may take for diabetes, pain, or to thin your blood
Please contact your care team if you have not received this information.
Eating and drinking before the procedure
Our reflexes slow down when we are given anesthesia. One protective reflex is coughing to prevent stomach contents from going into our lungs (aspiration). This is like choking and is less likely to happen when your stomach is empty/ Fasting (not eating or drinking) keeps your stomach empty.
Aspiration or choking on solid or semi-solid stomach contents may block air getting into your lungs. Liquid stomach contents that are acidic may burn your lungs and also stop your lungs from getting air. Both types of aspiration may cause brain damage or death. Aspiration can be treated. Most people survive, but treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) is often needed. Aspiration may lengthen your hospital stay by days to weeks.
Your stomach must be empty for the procedure. We do not want food from your stomach to get into your lungs during the procedure. Your procedure will be delayed if you do not or cannot follow eating and drinking instructions.
People having an abdominal (belly) procedure may have special eating and drinking instructions.
Learn more about what you can and cannot eat and drink before your procedure by reading the Eating and Drinking Before Your Procedure handout.
What happens after the procedure?
- Anesthesia medicine is stopped after your procedure.
- You will wake up in the recovery area. Most people stay there for 1 to 2 hours after the procedure.
- Then you will either go to a hospital room or go home.
- If you have serious health problems, you may go to an intensive care unit.
- Your care team will work with you to control your pain. You will be given information about this.
If you have any questions about your anesthesia, please call:
- 1-319-384-8906 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- 1-319-353-6400 after 5 p.m. or on weekends and holidays
Our team of caring and well-trained anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists are here to give you the best care. Thank you for letting us take care of you and your family.