department of anesthesia and Perioperative medicine

Patient Information

In surgery

Online Resources for Patients

Arrow Lifeline to Modern Medicine - Patient Information on Anesthesia

Arrow Society of Ambulatory Anesthesia

Arrow American Society of Anesthesiologists

Arrow Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology


This information is provided to help you understand that there are several different ways to administer anesthesia or pain relief during your surgery. There are four main types of anesthesia. The type that is used will depend on the type of surgery, your medical history, current medical problems, and your evaluation on the day of surgery. Your anesthesiologist will work with you and your surgeon to ensure your personal safety and comfort and to provide optimal conditions for your surgeon to perform the procedure.

Local - The anesthetic drug is injected into the tissue to numb just the specific location of your body requiring minor surgery. This technique does not require an anesthesiologist to be involved in your case.

Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC) - This technique is similar to ‘conscious sedation’ or ‘twilight sleep.’ You receive pain medicine and sedatives through your intravenous (IV) line from your anesthesiologist. The surgeon then uses local anesthesia at the surgical site to provide additional pain control during and after your procedure. While you are sedated, the anesthesiology team continuously monitors your vital signs and body functions.

Regional - This technique requires an injection near a cluster of nerves to numb the area of your body that requires surgery. The most familiar regional techniques are epidural or spinal blocks which anesthetize the abdomen and both lower extremities. Other nerve blocks may be done with the nerves in the arms or legs to anesthetize individual extremities. With regional anesthesia, you will feel no pain. Because you will receive sedation to your comfort level through medications injected into your intravenous (IV) line, the level of awareness will vary from patient to patient having the same procedure. Again, the anesthesiology team continuously monitors your vital signs and body functions.

General - With this technique, you are unconscious and have no awareness or other sensations. This means you will not feel, see, or hear anything during the surgical procedure. Some of the anesthetic medications can be given as a breathing gas and some are given through your intravenous (IV) line. Most commonly, a breathing tube will need to be used to maintain proper breathing throughout your surgery. The anesthesiology team continuously monitors your vital signs and body functions with the use of multiple monitors, and your length and level of anesthesia is adjusted accordingly. At the end of your procedure, the anesthesiologist reverses the process and you will regain awareness in the recovery room.

See Lifeline to Modern Medicine for more information on Anesthesiologists and their role during your surgery.

This MUSC section was last revised 6/09