Be informed about the differences between general anesthesia and sedation prior to any procedure or surgery you may undergo
11 June 2019| Last updated on 17 June 2019
Nobody likes pain – so there are many different types of anesthetic available to numb you during medical procedures and surgery.
While both sedation and general anesthesia are both effective forms of anesthesia, and sedation is a component of general anesthesia, they are different in many ways.
Patients under general anesthesia will have a complete loss of consciousness, meaning they will feel no pain, remember or hear anything. In order to achieve a loss of consciousness, a mixture of agents must be administered to the patient, usually in the form of an intravenous (IV) injection placed in a vein and inhaled gaseous anesthetics. General anesthesia is typically used for surgery, but it is also commonly used outside the operating room.
Risk of complications are more closely related to the type of surgery or procedure being performed, rather than the type of anesthesia. Conditions such as smoking, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity and high blood pressure amongst others can increase risk of complications during surgery.
In contrast, sedation is characterized when a patient is very relaxed but still conscious. The patient will not feel pain but will be aware of what is going on around them. The advantage with this method is that the patient will be able to maintain physiological responses and can breathe on their own.
Levels of sedation can range from mild to deep, but even with deep sedation you will not be unconscious as you would with general anesthesia. Sedation may even be combined with local anesthesia or regional anesthesia.
Sedation is often used for minor procedures such as suturing a laceration, or during non-painful procedures when patients need to be still for long periods of time, such as during a long imaging procedure or MRI.
Preparing for general anesthesia
Anesthesia relaxes the muscles in your digestive tract and airway, so you will be asked not to eat or drink anything for several hours before your procedure. You may however be able to drink clear fluids until a few hours prior.
You should ask your doctor which medications you can take before the procedure as not all are permitted. They may tell you to take some of your regular medications with a small sip of water. Aspirin and blood thinners are sometimes not advised for up to a week before surgery. Additionally, some herbal remedies may cause complications during surgery so its important to discuss all dietary supplements with your doctor.
Wear comfortable clothing on the day of your procedure as you may be sore or have bandages covering incisions. It is also recommended to bring a friend or relative as you may be drowsy after the procedure and won’t be able to drive. Plan your recovery period accordingly and consider having someone to stay with you for the initial 24 hours. Be prepared for any side effects as you may feel pain, soreness or nausea after surgery. Pain medication may be prescribed by your doctor.
At Medcare, we recommend discussing all possible anesthetic or sedation options fully with your doctor before any procedure, and to take their advice on all necessary precautions.
Dr. Nallasivam Natarajan
Medcare Hospital Dubai