Types of anaesthesia PDF Print E-mail

The three types of anaesthesia are general, regional and local. All three involve the administration of drugs to produce a change in sensation and they are frequently used in combination. Confusion sometimes arises, because the term “ local anaesthesia” is used to refer to what is properly called “ regional anaesthesia”, so that an operation “under local” may in fact be an operation using regional anaesthesia.

Factors that influence the choice of anaesthetic include:

  • The procedure to be performed. Some procedures can only be performed under general anaesthesia. For example, a patient undergoing removal of the gallbladder, whether by means of a laparoscopic or key-hole technique or through a standard incision, needs a general anaesthetic. For other procedures it is reasonable to consider whether or not the operation should be carried out under local, regional or general anaesthesia, or if a combination of techniques should be used, such as combined regional and general anaesthesia. For example, a patient undergoing an examination of the knee using a special instrument called an arthroscope could be offered a choice of local, regional, or general anaesthesia. A patient undergoing an open-heart operation might be offered a combination of general anaesthesia and regional anaesthesia.

  • The experience, expertise and preference of the anaesthetist can vary with different techniques.

  • Your own preference - whether or not you would prefer to be unconscious or wish to remain as conscious and in control as possible. Most patients prefer to be unconscious for major surgical procedures. For some procedures it is increasingly common for patients not to have a general anaesthetic—for example, caesarean section.

  • Age - It is common for children to have a general anaesthetic for procedures that might be done without any form of anaesthetic in an adult, for example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanning. This is because children may not understand the explanations or be able to lie still.