What is the difference between general and local anesthesia?

Answer

John Hopkins Medicine describes general anesthesia as affecting the entire body; it results in total unconsciousness. Local anesthesia only anesthetizes a portion of the body, such as a patient's foot or hand, and the patient remains awake throughout the procedure.

Local anesthesia is used for outpatient procedures where the surgical area is relatively small and the procedure time is short. The anesthetic agent only blocks the transmission of nerve impulses from the anesthetized area. WebMD states that local anesthetics are injected directly into the tissues surrounding the surgical site. When using local anesthesia, a patient is able to leave the physician's care almost immediately after the procedure.

According to WebMD, general anesthetics are usually administered intravenously, but some anesthetic agents are inhaled through a mask. General anesthesia affects many of the body's systems at once and suppresses functions such as heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Since general anaesthesia has such a drastic effect on the body, it is reserved for procedures that are extremely painful, complicated and long in duration. Once the anaesthesiologist stops applying general anaesthesia, the patient requires monitoring. This is usually done in a recovery room, where the patient regains consciousness and is allowed to shake off the drowsy and confusing after-effects of general anaesthesia.

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