If you’ve ever read any of the older classic books, especially those that describe the aftermath of a war, you know that life before anesthesia was not so great. Wounds that would normally be very treatable nowadays would result in infection, death, and sometimes removal of limbs. Fortunately, we live in the modern age, and anesthesia has led to a better outcome and quality of life for everyone in modern countries.
There are two types of anesthesia services available – local anesthesia and general anesthesia. Local anesthesia only numbs a particular region of the body, whereas general anesthesia relaxes or numbs the whole body. Which type of anesthesia will be used depends on the physical ailment to be treated, the physical condition of the patient, and the patient’s directives.
Our central nervous system is made up of the spine, brain, and the optic nerves. The central nervous system controls all of our thoughts, movements, and feelings. Nerves run from the central nervous system to the peripheral nervous system which is found throughout the rest of the body. Nerves carry electrochemical impulses from the central nervous system to the peripheral nervous system and back in a matter of seconds. They let us know about pleasant and negative feelings and emotions, thoughts, and other sensations. They also help muscles to relax or to tighten up. They are the body’s messengers that let us know what is going on in our own bodies and in the world around us.
Local anesthetics block the nervous passageways that carry pain signals from the peripheral region to the brain. Some examples of local anesthetics include Novocain shots, which dentists use to numb the area around the mouth during a root canal. Epidurals are used during childbirth to block the pain that originates in the spinal cord and goes to the pelvic region. Local anesthetics are also offered when applying stitches to an area that has been wounded.
More serious injuries often require that the patient be completely unconscious during a surgery. For this, a doctor will require general anesthesia of the patient. The patient will not remember the actual surgery. Another benefit to general anesthesia is that because the whole body is sedated, the body’s response to cuts is minimized. Blood pressure, stress hormone release, and heart rate remain the same throughout the operation. The most common general anesthetics are made from a mixture of inhalable gases and derivatives of ether. A skilled anesthesiologist will deliver the general anesthesia through a machine that will measure the amount of anesthesia necessary to keep a patient sedated, but not enough to cause harm or injury to his or her bodily functions.
The use of anesthesia has become very commonplace and safe. It has saved many lives and reduced suffering for many patients throughout the world. It is a wonderful gift of modern medicine and science.