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Feeling No Pain

October 09, 2000

Depending on the method, anesthesia can affect a patient's nervous system in several ways, by relieving pain, altering your state of consciousness and eliminating any memory of the surgery. Here are some different types of anesthesia:

Minimal sedation: Allows patients to respond to verbal commands. Breathing and heart functions not affected. Given by injection or orally.

Conscious sedation: Patients can respond to some verbal commands and to light touch. Airways remain open. Administered orally, intravenously or with gases.

Deep sedation: Patients are in a sleep-like state but can respond to repeated or painful stimulation. Administered orally, intravenously or with gases. Sometimes requires a breathing tube to keep airways open.

General anesthesia: Patients are unaware of what is occurring, pain-free, immobilized and unable to remember the period of anesthesia. They can't be aroused, even with painful stimulation. Often require help keeping airways open. Heart function may be affected. Given through intravenous drugs and gases.

Local anesthesia: The blocking of pain or sensation to a very small region of the body using numbing creams or injecting a drug like lidocaine.

Regional anesthesia: The numbing of a large region of the body, such as spinal blocks injected into the spinal fluid or epidural blocks injected into the space around the spinal cord to numb the lower body during childbirth. Does not affect consciousness.

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