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Spinal and Regional Anesthesia


Regional anesthesia involves the loss of sensation in a limited region or area of the body to prevent pain. It is produced by drugs that interrupt the action of nerves which carry the pain sensation. These drugs are known as local anesthetics. Regional anesthesia works directly on the nerves and does not circulate to the brain like general anesthesia. This minimizes the sedation and nausea that can sometimes follow general anesthesia. Although no pain is felt with regional anesthesia, the anesthesiologist sometimes administers sedatives or tranquilizers through the IV to help with anxiety and apprehension. A patient certainly does not need to be "wide awake" during a regional anesthetic. There are several types of regional anesthesia that are named according to where the anesthesia is administered and what area loses sensation.

Spinal or Subarachnoid Anesthesia is a type of anesthetic that is performed by injecting a very small amount of local anesthetic (e.g. Novacaine) into the spinal fluid through a very small needle placed between the bones in the back.  Despite what you might have heard, this procedure is simple, causes about as much pain as a flu shot, and is one of the safest of all anesthetics.  Spinal anesthesia is used frequently for procedures such as Caesarean sections, foot or leg surgery, surgery on the reproductive organs, and many other procedures of the lower abdomen.  Sedation is nearly always provided during the operation, for patient comfort.