Types of anesthesia

There are different types of anesthesia and your anesthesiologist will review the anesthesia methods suitable for your surgery. The selection of an anesthesia technique depends on the type of surgery, your overall health, and your personal preferences. Often, different types of anesthesia are combined to enhance pain management, comfort, and reduce anxiety. Your anesthesiologist will review your history and the type of surgery you are having to decide the most suitable method for your surgery.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is a medical technique that uses medications to make you completely unconscious and unaware of pain during surgery. It is administered either intravenously or via a mask or in some cases via both methods. You remain asleep as long as the drugs are administered. 

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia, sometimes called "blocks", is a type of anesthesia that numbs a large part of your body, such as an arm or leg, so you won't feel pain during the procedure while either remaining awake or in combination with another technique like sedation. For example, if you are having a fistula formed for dialysis your arm will be numbed but you will remain awake, making it safer upon key organs like your brain, heart, and kidneys. 

Neuraxial Anesthesia

Neuraxial anesthesia is a type of regional anesthesia that involves injecting medication near the spinal cord to numb the lower part of your body, commonly used for surgeries below the waist. Sometimes this can be a single injection, other times a small catheter is inserted to allow pain medication to be infused for several days post-operatively. Neuraxial anesthesia is commonly used in obstetrics, general surgery, and orthopedic surgery.


Sedation, sometimes called Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC), is a technique used to help you relax and feel sleepy during a procedure, often making you less aware of the surgery without fully putting you to sleep. Typical procedures for which sedation is used is endoscopy or in conjunction with regional for improved comfort.

What are the risks of anesthesia? 

Each type of anesthesia carries specific risks. Your anesthesiologist will explain the risks relevant to you before your surgery, as these risks are influenced not only by the anesthesia technique but also by your existing health conditions. For more information, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologist's website.