Regional anesthesia involves the loss of sensation in a limited area of the body to prevent pain. It is produced by drugs that interrupt the action of nerves that carry the pain sensation. These drugs are known as local anesthetics. Regional anesthesia does not normally affect the brain. 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 reginal anesthetic. There are several types of regional anesthesia that are named according to where the anesthesia is administrered 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 (ie, Novacaine) into the spinal fluid through a very small needle placed between the bones in the back. Despite common misconception, 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 Ceasarean sections, foot or leg surgery, surgery on the reproductive organs, and many other procedures on the lower abdomen. Sedation is nearly always provided for patient comfort during the operation.