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Anesthesia involves the careful, controlled use of medications to block pain and sedate patients during surgery. At Houston Methodist, our team of expert anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists provide patients with safe and personalized care.

Four types of anesthesia are commonly used: sedation, local, regional or general. The type of anesthesia administered will depend upon the procedure performed. Houston Methodist offers a full range of services, and patients are encouraged to discuss preferences for the type of anesthesia to be used with their surgeons and anesthesiologists. 
  • Sedation is a form of anesthesia used to calm the patient during a non-painful procedure during which he or she needs to remain conscious. Sedation may be used during diagnostic procedures like endoscopy, or for smaller operative procedures in combination with local anesthesia. 
  • Local anesthesia confines the pain block to a small area of the body. Usually, the surgeon will administer a local anesthetic without the assistance of an anesthesiologist. 
  • Regional anesthesia blocks pain in the general area being operated on, but the patient remains conscious. Regional anesthesia can also be used in combination with a general anesthetic to control pain after surgery. 
  • General anesthesia involves what many people refer to as being "put under." The patient receives sufficient medication to render him or her unconscious for the duration of the procedure. General anesthesia is used for many types of major and minor surgery.

Pain Management
Certain types of postoperative pain are managed by a specialized team of anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists in the hospital. The anesthesiologist and an experienced pain nurse assess the patient’s pain daily and adjust medication as needed. Although patients should not expect to be completely pain-free, discomfort is controlled so that patients can actively participate in their recovery.
  • Epidurals, which are most often administered for treating pain during childbirth, can be used to relieve pain after any type of surgery in the chest, abdomen and lower limbs. A continuous infusion of pain medication is delivered into the spine, where it directly targets and blocks pain-transmitting nerves. An epidural is administered before surgery while the patient is awake, and may be delivered together with sedation to reduce anxiety. 
  • Regional nerve blocks may be used to numb pain signals from nerves that are near a surgical site. Administered before surgery, nerve blocks begin to wear off eight to 12 hours after an operation. Additional pain pills can be given at that point to keep pain under control. In some cases, a local anesthetic is also given to extend nerve blocks for longer periods of time. The local anesthetic is not as strong as the original block; therefore, patients will have some sensation and ability to move. 
  • Spinal medications are used during some surgeries in combination with local anesthetics when longer-lasting pain relief is needed. The local anesthetic wears off in about two to three hours, but the long acting medication lingers and can provide effective pain relief for 18 to 24 hours.

It is important to remember that not all types of pain management are for everyone. Please consult your physician and your anesthesiologist to learn which form of pain management is most suitable for you. 

Additional Treatments
Anesthesia is not only used during invasive surgeries. It can also be used for a variety of treatment and diagnostic procedures where pain or anxiety need to be managed:
  • Obstetric anesthesiologists administer epidurals for natural labor and can give additional pain medications if needed. 
  • Cardiovascular anesthesiologists and highly skilled nurse anesthetists are specially trained to administer anesthesia during surgery for heart ailments and as part of postoperative care during a patient’s hospital stay. 
  • Pediatric anesthesiologists provide care to children scheduled for surgery or procedures that require a child to remain still. Our child-friendly pediatric recovery room is adjacent to the treatment room, which enables children to fully recover alongside a dedicated care team. Parents are encouraged to interact with their children in the recovery room and throughout the recovery process. 
  • Anesthesia before diagnostic and screening tests relieves anxiety or discomfort often associated with procedures. Anesthesia can administered by the treating physician to produce a light level of sedation, which allows the patient to remain awake and alert in order to follow instructions if necessary. An anesthesiologist can deliver a deeper level of sedation, if needed, that will wear off after a short amount of time.