General and Gastrointestinal Surgery

Anesthesia Options and Safety

Anesthesia options for open surgery:

  • Local anesthesia. With this method, the area to be operated on is numbed using injection of local anesthetic. Patients also receive intravenous medications which make them sleepy and often eliminate any recollection of the operation.
  • Spinal or epidural anesthesia. In these approaches a small needle is placed into the fluid of the spinal cord or just above it and an anesthetic agent is injected. Patients' legs will feel numb and paralyzed during the operation and they will not feel the surgery.

Anesthesia for laparoscopic surgery

  • General anesthesia. Although in some circumstances the laparoscopic approach can be performed with either the local or spinal approach, it is generally not done. It is difficult to prevent the discomfort associated with expanding the abdomen to perform the procedure.

Anesthesia is safe.

Most people are more afraid of anesthesia than of the surgery itself. This is a normal reaction, since the patient is completely out of control in this situation. However, this fear is not reality-based, since modern anesthetic techniques are extremely safe.

Anesthesia is not a mystical trance patients are placed in from which they may not wake up. Anesthesia is a very controlled use of drugs to block certain body functions, such as muscle contraction, consciousness and pain. These drugs can be reversed by other drugs or by stopping their infusion into the veins. While a patient is under anesthesia, all vital body functions are monitored, including EKG, blood pressure, blood-oxygen level and the amount of carbon dioxide in the breath. 

Anesthesia is so safe that there is really no need to be worried about it. It is safer than driving a car or flying in an airplane. It is a daily event that occurs millions of times per day without problems.