Almost all medical procedures involve some form of anesthesia which works and impacts risk differently.

Whether it’s wisdom tooth removal, a diagnostic colonoscopy or a coronary bypass surgery - they all involve some sort of anesthesia. 

Since we cover elective surgeries, we’ve made it a point to know as much about anesthesia as we can so you have the resources you need to have more confidence about your procedure or ask your healthcare providers any questions you might have.

The Basics

Anesthesia is treatment to not feel pain during medical surgeries that works by blocking sensory signals to the brain

An anesthesiologist is a doctor that evaluates, monitors & delivers anesthesia

An analgesic is pain medication, usually used in postoperative pain management

Who’s at higher risk of adverse reactions?

Older individuals, smokers and those with any of the following disorders:

  • Insulin / Weight

  • Heart / Brain

  • Kidney / Lung

Complications & Side Effects

Common: Body pain, nausea, chills, itching, sore throat, trouble urinating

Rare: Nerve damage, malignant hyperthermia, collapsed lung, anesthetic awareness, hives, trouble swallowing / breathing, paralysis, slurred speech

Before & After Anesthesia

Before: Expect to make some changes around smoking, blood pressure medication, ingesting food / drink / supplements leading up to your procedure as per your doctor’s orders

After: Have someone drive you home from the medical facility, follow your recommended rest / pain management regimen and do not drive, operate equipment, consume alcohol or make any important decisions for a day or two while the anesthesia leaves your system

There are 4 main types of anesthesia, in increasing strength - local, sedation, regional & general. We’ve compared them below so you can better understand how they work, what to expect, and what you need to consider about risks or recovery.


What is it? Numbing parts of the body for quick procedures

Will I be awake? Yes

How is it administered? Numbing cream, spray, needle

Commonly used in? Stitches, cavities, biopsies

Side effects / risks? Soreness at injection site, allergic reactions


What is it? Relaxing the muscles and inducing drowsiness

Will I be awake? Depends on type of sedation; mild - alert, moderate - drowsy, deep - asleep

How is it administered? Intravenous

Commonly used in? Wisdom teeth removal, laser eye surgery, endoscopy

Side effects / risks? Nausea, headaches, drowsiness


What is it? Numbing large areas of the body - causing partial paralysis

Will I be awake? Yes

How is it administered? Catheter or needle for a spinal block, epidural or peripheral nerve block

Commonly used in?  C-section, hand surgery, knee surgery

Side effects / risks? Nausea, headache, low blood pressure, itching, bleeding, infection, seizure, trouble urinating, nerve damage


What is it? Being unconscious & having slowed down body function

Will I be awake? No - an anesthesiologist monitors your heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, oxygen levels & other vitals

How is it administered? Breathing tube / mask, intravenous

Commonly used in?  Major / invasive procedures of the head, chest or abdomen

Side effects / risks? Slowed reflexes, impaired judgment, drowsiness, sore throat, nausea, chills, confusion