Anesthesiology is a branch of medical science dedicated to the relief of pain and total care of the surgical patient before, during and after surgery. Woodlawn Hospital's anesthesia staff consists of a board certified Anesthesiologists from Great Lakes Anesthesia and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) trained to carefully match each patient's anesthetic needs to his/her medical condition, responses to anesthesia and requirements of the surgery. Woodlawn Hospital's anesthesia services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What are the most commonly used types of pain relief?

The Anesthesia department offers services such as general, local and regional anesthesia. In many cases, the type of anesthetic used depends on the surgery or procedure.

General Anesthesia

When a general anesthetic is chosen for an operation, the patient will be completely asleep for the duration of the procedure. The anesthetic is injected into the blood stream and breathed into the lungs. The patient is monitored the entire time by the Anesthesiologist. In some cases while the patient is asleep, a breathing tube or mask is placed in the windpipe to protect his/her lungs. This sometimes results in the patient experiencing a scratchy throat after surgery.

Local Anesthesia

A surgeon or anesthesiologist will often inject local anesthesia directly in a small area to provide numbness or loss of sensation. Local anesthesia often is used in certain hernia repairs, to ease the pain of childbirth or when an episiotomy incision is done to assist the delivery.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia refers to an epidural or a spinal block used to numb the lower part of the body, causing a temporary decrease or loss of feeling and/or movement. A spinal block involves the placement of the anesthetic in a space below where the spinal cord ends. Spinal blocks are extremely useful for the patient who does not want general anesthesia and is having a procedure done on the lower abdomen, groin or lower extremities. A spinal block may be used for a regular or a cesarean delivery but is seldom used during labor.

The epidural block is similar to the spinal in that it is placed in the back and also makes the patient numb from the waist down. The technique allows for a small tube to be placed in the back through which the Anesthesiologist can administer the anesthetic and precisely control the level of anesthesia for prolonged operations. An epidural block may be used during childbirth.

What are the risks of anesthesia?

All anesthetics have risks, and they are dependent upon many factors including type of surgery, and the medical condition of the patient. Fortunately, adverse reactions to anesthesia are rare due to educational and technological advancements. Communication and cooperation between the patient and anesthesia staff, before and after surgery, are essential to ensuring a safe anesthesia process.