Different kinds of anaesthesia

What are the different kinds of anaesthesia?

These can be broadly divided into local anaesthesia, regional anaesthesia (nerve blocks, epidural, spinal), sedation and general anaesthesia.For some types of surgery there are several anaesthesia choices available. You need to be assessed by the anaesthetist who, in consultation with you and the surgeon, will determine the appropriate type of anaesthesia.

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Local anaesthesia

Local anaesthetic is injected under the skin and the tissues below the skin around the area to be operated on. It may be the only type of anaesthesia used or it may be combined with sedation or general anaesthesia, depending on the extent of the operative area and the duration of the surgery. Local anaesthesia is usually an option for minor surgery, such as toenail repair, skin tear or a cut to remove something. If the area to be operated on is infected it may not be appropriate to use local anaesthesia.


Regional anaesthesia

Regional anaesthesia involves the injection of local anaesthetic around major nerve bundles supplying body areas such as the thigh, ankle, forearm, hand and shoulder. Regional anaesthesia may be performed using either a nerve-locating device such as a nerve stimulator, or ultrasound, which is a painless procedure used to demonstrate internal body structures using sound waves to create an image. These may help to more precisely locate the selected nerve(s) and deliver the drugs with greater accuracy. Regional anaesthesia may be the only anaesthesia needed for surgery or may be combined with general anaesthesia.
Once the local anaesthetic is injected, you may experience numbness and tingling around the operative area. You may also notice that moving the affected area such as arm or leg(s) may become difficult, if not impossible. This indicates that the appropriate nerves have been anaesthetised or “blocked”.



There are two types of sedation. Procedural sedation is used for procedures where general anaesthesia is not required and allows patients to tolerate procedures that would otherwise be uncomfortable or painful. It may be associated with a lack of memory of any distressing events. Conscious sedation is defined as a medication-induced state that reduces the patient’s level of consciousness during which the patient can respond purposefully to verbal commands or light stimulation by touch. 

General anaesthesia

General anaesthesia produces a drug-induced state where the patient will not respond to any stimuli, including pain. It may be associated with changes in breathing and circulation.


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