There are several ways that anesthesia can be given.
- Local anesthesia involves injection of a local anesthetic (numbing agent) directly into the surgical area to block pain sensations. It is used only for minor procedures on a limited part of the body. You may remain awake, though you will likely receive medicine to help you relax or sleep during the surgery.
- Regional anesthesia involves injection of a local anesthetic (numbing agent) around major nerves or the spinal cord to block pain from a larger but still limited part of the body. You will likely receive medicine to help you relax or sleep during surgery. Major types of regional anesthesia include:
- Peripheral nerve blocks. A local anesthetic is injected near a specific nerve or group of nerves to block pain from the area of the body supplied by the nerve. Nerve blocks are most commonly used for procedures on the hands, arms, feet, legs, or face.
- Epidural and spinal anesthesia. A local anesthetic is injected near the spinal cord and nerves that connect to the spinal cord to block pain from an entire region of the body, such as the belly, hips, or legs.
- General anesthesia is given into a vein (intravenously) or is inhaled. It affects the brain as well as the entire body. You are completely unaware and do not feel pain during the surgery. Also, general anesthesia often causes forgetfulness (amnesia) right after surgery (postoperative period).
- For some minor procedures, a qualified health professional who is not an anesthesia specialist may give some limited types of anesthesia, such as procedural sedation. Procedural sedation combines the use of local anesthesia with small doses of sedative or analgesic agents (painkillers) to relax you.