Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care: School of Medicine: University of California, Irvine

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Anesthesia 101

Anesthesiologists with patient

What is anesthesia? Anesthesiology is the practice of medicine dedicated to the relief of pain and total care of patients before, during and after surgery.

Anesthesiology is a practice of medicine specializing in:

  • The medical management (preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative evaluation and treatment) of patients who are rendered unconscious and/or insensible to pain and emotional stress during surgical, obstetrical and certain other medical procedures.
  • The protection of life functions and vital organs under the stress of anesthetic, surgical and other medical procedures, including the management of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • The management of problems in pain relief, including acute and chronic pain medicine and obstetric analgesia.
  • The management of critically ill patients in special care units.

Anesthesia Services

Anesthesiologists provide consultation for patients and other physicians, general anesthesia, spinal and regional analgesia, obstetric analgesia/anesthesia, deep sedation, acute and chronic pain management and the management of intensive care patients.

Types of Anesthesia

Every surgery and every patient is different. The kind of anesthesia you receive for your surgery will depend on your health and any special conditions you may have, the location and type of surgical procedure you are scheduled for and in many cases, your own preference, once the options are explained to you. In some situations a particular anesthetic type will not be performable and if this is the case your anesthesiologist will explain why.

In many situations, however, several types of anesthesia may be equally safe and offer different advantages and disadvantages. In these cases your anesthesiologist will discuss the options with you and together you can decide on how to proceed.

The primary types of anesthesia available are:

  • General

    You will be completely unconscious and usually intubated (a breathing tube that goes into the lungs), breathing with the assistance of a mechanical ventilator.
  • Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC)

    You will be provided some amount of sedation and comfort but you are not unconscious, you will breath on your own through the surgery and the surgeon will provide some kind of local anesthetic.
  • Regional (spinals, epidurals, nerve blocks)

    You will be provided some amount of sedation and comfort but you are not unconscious, you will breath on your own through the surgery and the surgeon will provide some kind of local anesthetic.