What is anesthesia used for?

Anesthesia is a medicine given during childbirth, surgery, or a procedure so that you won’t feel pain. It helps keep you relaxed and calm during the procedure. The type of anesthesia you have will depend on your medical history, any allergies you have to medicines, the results of any tests you have and a physical exam, as well as the type of procedure that you are having done.

How does it work?

The main types of anesthesia are local, regional, and general.

  • Local anesthesia numbs the part of your body where you will have the surgery. It is used for simple procedures, such as sewing up a cut or removing a skin growth. The medicine is usually given as one or more shots into the area. If the nose or mouth needs to be numbed, it may be done using nose drops or a spray.
  • Regional anesthesia numbs a larger area of the body than local anesthesia. It takes effect quickly and blocks pain. It may be used for surgeries below the waist, such as surgeries on the rectum, bladder, prostate, and legs. Major types of regional anesthesia are:
    • Spinal anesthesia, which is given through a needle in the spine. The drug takes effect quickly. It blocks pain in the lower body and keeps you from moving.
    • Epidural anesthesia, which is also given through a needle in the spine. The dose is adjusted so that the nerves that carry pain signals are blocked, but you are able to move.
    • Peripheral nerve block, which is given near a specific nerve or group of nerves. The pain is then blocked. This type of anesthesia is often used for procedures on the hands, arms, feet, legs, or face.
  • General anesthesia relaxes your muscles and you will be asleep. It also keeps you from remembering the procedure. The anesthetic may be given through a vein (IV) or as a gas breathed in through a mask. Often both a gas and IV medicine are given.

    While you are asleep you will have a tube in your throat to help you breathe and to make sure you get enough oxygen. The tube may be removed before you wake up after the surgery.

What else do I need to know about this medicine?

  • Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the anesthetic or other medicines may cause and what you should do if you have side effects.
  • Keep a list of your medicines with you. List all of the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that you take. Tell all healthcare providers who treat you about all of the products you are taking.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information. Be sure to keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-11-03
Last reviewed: 2013-09-18
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


Your privacy is important to us. Learn more about ourwebsite privacy policy. X