Anesthesia is a medical treatment that prevents patients from feeling pain during surgery. It allows people to have procedures that lead to healthier and longer lives.
To produce anesthesia, doctors use drugs called anesthetics. Scientists have developed a collection of anesthetic drugs with different effects. These drugs include general, regional, and local anesthetics. General anesthetics put patients to sleep during the procedure. Local and regional anesthetics just numb part of the body and allow patients to remain awake during the procedure.
Depending on the type of pain relief needed, doctors deliver anesthetics by injection, inhalation, topical lotion, spray, eye drops, or skin patch.
Anesthesiologists are doctors who carefully monitor patients throughout surgery and during recovery. They use highly advanced electronic devices that constantly display patients’ blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, heart function, and breathing patterns. These devices have dramatically improved the safety of general anesthesia. They also make it possible to operate on many patients who used to be considered too sick to have surgery.
Anesthesiologists also provide pain relief for less invasive procedures, such as those used to examine blood vessels and internal organs (endoscopy) and during labor and delivery.
As experts in pain management, anesthesiologists may advise patients and their doctors on how to manage pain.