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How Does Anesthesia Work? (page 2)

How does local anesthesia work?
Local anesthesia usually involves the injection of local anesthetic drug with a needle. There are some other ways of delivering local anesthetic drugs - but currently injection is still the most commonly method of delivery.

Local anesthetics work by blocking nerve impulses. At a cellular level this occurs by blocking sodium channels in the nerve membranes. When sodium is blocked in this way, the nerve cannot conduct an impulse and therefore no sensation can be transmitted. Different local anesthetic drugs differ in their side effects, dosages and duration of action.

How does regional anesthesia work?
Regional anesthesia involves the injection of local anesthetic drugs in such a way that a large number of nerves are blocked. This results in a large region of the body without sensation. This is similar to local anesthesia - but takes advantage of certain attributes of the body in order to have a larger effect.

There are many different methods used depending on which area of the body needs to be affected. Let's use spinal anesthesia, a common technique, as an example. Local anesthetic drugs are injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. The drug is able to spread in this fluid, and therefore a small amount of drug can affect a large number of nerves. A spinal can result in the loss of sensation of the entire lower half of the body. Spinals are often used for surgery on the legs or lower abdominal area.

How does sedation work?
Sedation can be accomplished with a variety of medications. Most of the time, these medications are given through an intravenous line directly into the bloodstream of the patient. Less commonly, inhaled gases or medications injected into muscles can be used to provide sedation. Ultimately, even these forms of delivery depend on the drug reaching the patient's bloodstream and then affecting the brain.

As mentioned above, most of these medications can also be used to give general anesthesia when they are given at higher doses. So the mechanisms of drugs used in sedation are similar to the drugs used in general anesthesia (discussed below).

Next page ---> General Anesthesia? Page 1, 2, 3


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