Different Types of Anesthesia

23 January, 2018

Over 160 years ago, it was William Morton who successfully first used diethyl ether as a general anesthetic and since then there have been numerous advances in the field of anesthesia. These advances have made many newer surgical techniques possible as well as reducing morbidity and mortality from anesthesia during the course of surgery.

Anesthesia is a core medical field involved in pain management and over the last decade, tremendous developments and refinements in techniques and technology have led to safer and more effective practice of anesthesia. This has helped surgeons carry out more complicated and longer surgeries with greater accuracy and minimal discomfort to the patient. Taking over the breathing of the patient during the course of surgery isn’t something to be sneezed at and considerable expertise goes into the practice of anesthesia. Introduction of a number of new anesthetic drugs has further helped in bringing more critically-ill and high-risk patients to the operating table.

Majority of the advances in surgical techniques have depended on the advances in anesthetic techniques since comprehensive anesthesia was introduced in the 1840s’. Anesthetics can be administered as inhalatory gases, injections, ointments, drops or sprays, but they all have the same purpose – of blocking pain and other signals from reaching the brain. For most people anesthesia is a mysterious field as they don’t get to know what the anesthetist actually does as they are usually ‘out’ while they are under the influence of anesthesia. Here are some of the forms of anesthesia used.

General anesthesia

This is employed for major surgeries when the patient needs to be made unconscious.

Local anesthesia

This type of anesthesia is used for minor actions such as dental procedures like tooth extraction or minor skin surgeries. Local anesthetics used to numb pain come in the form of gels, creams, sprays and ointments.

Regional anesthesia

This is similar to local anesthesia, but covers a wider and deeper part of the body. Usually called a regional block, it is used to target specific nerves. There are different forms of regional anesthesia.

Epidural anesthesia

This is a form of regional anesthesia that targets the spine. Anesthetic is delivered into the lower spine to numb the lower part of the body; it’s most commonly used for cesarean section deliveries and childbirth. The tube used to deliver the anesthetic is left in place so that the drug can be topped up if needed over the course of time.

Spinal anesthesia

It is similar to an epidural and is delivered into the spine in a single injection to block the nerves connecting to the lower half of the body prior to surgery.

Combination anesthesia

In some cases, the patient may require a regional anesthesia along with general anesthesia to provide optimal pain relief after surgery is over. In such cases, the patient is drowsy as well as numb, making them feel relaxed in spite of the surgery they have been through.


Even though sedation isn’t a form of anesthesia, it helps in relaxing the patients and making them drowsy during the procedure or test….with the patient remembering very little of the experience later.