What is anesthesia?
Anesthesia is a medical treatment that prevents patients from feeling pain during procedures like surgery, certain screening and diagnostic tests, tissue sample removal (e.g., skin biopsies), and dental work. It allows people to have procedures that lead to healthier and longer lives.
To produce anesthesia, doctors use drugs called
anesthetics. Scientists have developed a collection of anesthetic drugs with different effects. These drugs include general, regional, and local anesthetics. General anesthetics make patients unconscious during the procedure while local and regional anesthetics just numb part of the body and allow patients to remain awake.
Depending on the type of pain relief needed, doctors deliver anesthetics by injection, inhalation, topical lotion, spray, eye drops, or skin patch.
What is general anesthesia?
General anesthesia affects the whole body, making patients unconscious and unable to move. Surgeons use it when they operate on internal
organs and for other invasive or time-consuming procedures such as back surgery. Without general anesthesia, many major, life-saving procedures would not be possible, including open-heart surgery, brain surgery, and organ transplants.
General anesthetics cause changes in brain waves. Credit: Ohyoon Kwon, Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and Emery N. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.