Types of Anaesthesia and Pain relief

Some form of anaesthesia is essential for surgery to occur. There are many types available each with their own benefits and risks. The type available depends on many factors, and will be decided after discussion with your anaesthetist. The main types are listed below; they can be used alone or more commonly in combination, i.e. General Anaesthetic plus a nerve block.

  • General Anaesthesia

    General Anaesthesia classically involves the triad of unconsciousness, paralysis and analgesia. The patient is asleep with a tube to maintain their airway.
  • Spinal Anaesthesia

    Spinal Anaesthesia involves an injection of anaesthetic into the back, it causes paralysis and numbness of the legs. It lasts for around two hours, and can't be continued after the operation.
  • Epidural Anaesthesia

    Epidural Anaesthesia is similar to spinal anaesthesia, but a small plastic tube is left in the epidural space, it to provides numbness and paralysis of the legs. The presence of the tube allows the epidural to be topped up so that the anaesthetic effect can last for a much longer period until well after the surgery.
  • Nerve Block

    Here local anaesthetic agents are injected around peripheral nerves, such as the femoral nerve in the groin, or the sciatic nerve in the buttock. This is often used in conjunction with general anaesthesia to provide longer acting pain relief post operatively.

Pain relief after an operation is essential, whilst we would like all surgery to be pain free, it is not, initially patient can experience a significant degree of pain and discomfort. Some pain relief is a continuation of the anaesthetic, for example the nerve block mentioned above. There are many other forms of post operative pain relief, the commonest being patient controlled analgesia, where the patient is attached to a morphine drip that delivers pain relief at the push of a button.