Simply speaking, an anesthetic is a drug that induces anesthesia – a temporary loss of sensation or awareness. Anesthetic drugs are given to patients about to undergo surgery, making the experience more comfortable and less painful. However, people who have never used anesthetics might find the whole process to be a bit daunting.
To help you with this anxiety, let’s look at it from a different perspective. Imagine that you were born in the 1800s, more than 200 years ago when anesthesia did not exist. If you were to undergo surgery during that time, you would have had to resort to a stiff shot of whiskey and clenching your teeth to make it through all the brutal pain.
Here are some essential details regarding anesthetics you should be aware about.
1. Types of Anesthesia
The general premise of all types of anesthesia is to help relieve pain during surgery or other medical treatments. Hospitals use anesthesia machines to induce and maintain anesthesia for different surgical procedures. After a patient is administered anesthetics through an intravenous line in their arm or through a gas that they breathe from a mask, the anesthesia machine provides a steady flow of anesthetic gases into the patient to maintain the anesthesia. However, the type of anesthesia administered to patients depends on different factors, such as the medical procedure and their health status. The different types of anesthesia include the following:
If you have been seriously injured in an accident or are undergoing major surgery, you are likely to be given general anesthesia as it induces unconsciousness. It is either inhaled through a breathing mask or given intravenously via an IV line. A breathing tube is inserted into the trachea to maintain normal breathing during the procedure. Once the surgery is successful, the anesthesiologist cuts off the anesthetic supply, and the patient gets transferred to the recovery room for further monitoring
Local anesthesia is given to block pain receptors in a particular region of the body. Therefore, your consciousness is not affected by local anesthesia. It is generally used during minor surgeries and is administered via an injection site or through cutaneous absorption. However, during surgical procedures that require a large area to be desensitized, a different type of anesthesia may be preferred.
As the name suggests, regional anesthesia is used to desensitize only a large area of the body that will undergo surgery. It is administered via an injection to the nerves supplying particular parts of the body. Similar to local anesthesia, it does not render the patient unconscious.
2. Smokers May Need More Anesthesia
Several pieces of research have shown that people who smoke may require more anesthesia than non-smokers. According to medical experts, as cigarette smoking irritates your airways, you need a greater quantity of anesthetics to increase tolerance. If you are about to undergo surgery that requires you to be anesthetized, it is a good idea to quit smoking until the surgery. That significantly eliminates the risk of complications and helps you recover more quickly. This temporary abstinence might also help you quit smoking for good.
3. Being Overweight Can Increase Your Risk of Complications
According to experts, obese individuals are more prone to developing complications from surgery. This stems from the fact that it is difficult for anesthesiologists to administer adequate doses of anesthesia to overweight patients. Furthermore, obesity can increase the risk of sleep apnea during surgeries. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which breathing frequently stops and starts . Due to this condition, it becomes particularly tough to maintain optimal breathing levels in obese patients that have been anesthetized. Therefore, doctors recommend heavier patients lose a bit of weight before surgery to minimize the risk of complications.
4. You May Wake Up During Surgery
Anesthesia awareness occurs when a patient becomes aware of their surroundings during a surgery. While this may be terrifying to think about, it is extremely rare and occurs only in about 0.1% of all surgical procedures involving general anesthesia. Also, patients usually do not feel any pain when experiencing anesthesia awareness.
5. Your Memory May Be Affected
You may have seen those funny YouTube videos of people saying nonsensical things after undergoing surgery. This is due to the effects of anesthetic drugs given to them before the procedure. Memory loss from general anesthesia can last for several days and even months. This post-operative memory loss is mainly due to the effect of anesthetic drugs on the memory receptors of the brain.
6. Know Your Anesthesiologist
Anesthesiologists are trained doctors that specialize in administering and managing anesthetics given during surgery. They are also responsible for monitoring your vitals and overall health status before, during, and after the surgical procedure. Before the relevant doctors can move forward with the surgery, the anesthesiologist will perform a regular check-up to assess your medical status. They will also prepare an anesthetic plan that takes your medical condition into account. Therefore, your anesthesiologist must be up to speed with your medical history, diet, and any medicines that you might be taking. To be precise here is some key information they must know before drawing up your anesthetic plan:
- Reactions to anesthetics in the past
- Known allergies
- Complete medical history including prescriptions or any over-the-counter medicines
- Smoking or drinking habits
- Use of street drugs like marijuana or cocaine
- Consumption of any dietary supplements
7. Some Risks and Side Effects
Some potentially common after-effects that you might experience after waking up from anesthesia include drowsiness, nausea and vomiting, headaches, sore throat, shivering due to lower body temperature, and muscle aches. Although it is very uncommon, some people also experience delirium (a state of confusion) for a few days after the procedure.
8. Aromatherapy Can Speed Up the Recovery Process
As mentioned, the most common after-effects of anesthesia include nausea and vomiting. To help tackle this issue, doctors recommend aromatherapy. Research has shown that certain scents like lavender can help reduce the severity of symptoms and make you feel better.
In modern medicine, the significance of anesthesia cannot be understated. Anesthetics are drugs that help prevent excruciating pain during surgical procedures. When administered by highly-trained anesthesiologists, anesthesia can help people receive necessary medical treatments that are safe and painless.