Is Anesthesia Safe? What You Should Know

June 21, 2022 12:00 pm Published by

If you or a loved one have a surgical procedure in your immediate future, you probably have a number of questions. Many people wonder about the safety of the surgery itself and the type of anesthesia used.

While surgical procedures vary, they all use some type of anesthesia to keep the patient comfortable and manage pain. In past decades and even past centuries, anesthesia care was often risky and less effective than it is today.

Modern-day advancements have greatly improved the safety and efficiency of anesthesia and introduced new types of anesthesia.

How Anesthesia Works

Medical procedures often involve incisions and other cuts of the body’s tissues that can cause pain. In addition to physical pain, the simple act of being fully awake while a surgical procedure is being performed can cause anxiety in many people.

Anesthesia helps alleviate these issues, using different types of medication to block pain, increase comfort and promote a loss of awareness or consciousness. There are four main types of anesthesia used in different circumstances:

  1. General anesthesia is used to cause a loss of consciousness. It’s the type of anesthesia you may think of when you think about being “put to sleep” for surgery.
  2. Sedation is a type of anesthesia that makes you sleepy and alleviates pain but doesn’t cause a loss of consciousness. During some surgical procedures, light sedation will be used to keep a patient comfortable but awake, while in others sedation will allow patients to fall asleep.
  3. Regional anesthesia is delivered through a catheter or an injection and is used to numb a specific, large section of the body. Epidurals and spinal blocks are examples of this type of anesthesia, which is typically administered when a patient needs to stay awake during the procedure but requires pain relief.
  4. Local anesthesia is delivered through an injection in a specific, small part of the body. Because it only affects the local area around the injection, this type of anesthesia has the fewest side effects.

Your surgical team, including an anesthesiologist, will determine the type of anesthesia that’s best for your surgical procedure and your specific needs. If you’ve ever had a reaction or side effects from any type of anesthesia, make sure they’re aware of your experience.

The Safety of Anesthesia

Much like with other aspects of medical care, the safety of anesthesia has improved greatly in just the past few decades. Advancements in medication and equipment, as well as in the monitoring used during procedures, have helped advance safety in this area of medicine.

By and large, anesthesia is considered quite safe today. There is always some level of risk, though, and patients may experience side effects related to the anesthesia.

Side effects vary depending on the type of anesthesia. Patients under general anesthesia, for example, may experience nausea and vomiting or a sore throat, while local or regional anesthesia is more likely to cause itching or injection site pain.

Regardless of the anesthesia you receive, your heart rate and overall status will be carefully monitored during the surgical procedure and as you recover to avoid complications and minimize side effects as much as possible.


Preparing for a surgical procedure? This guide can help you know what to expect.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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