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People who undergo any type of surgical procedure, no matter how minor, must also be administered anesthesia. Without it, nerve signals between your brain and body can’t be interrupted. This needs to happen in order to prevent your brain from processing any type of pain. Contrary to popular belief, there is more than one type of anesthesia. Both local and general anesthesia work to block pain receptors, but they operate differently. A local, or regional, numbing of tissue does not render a patient unconscious. General anesthesia, on the other hand, keeps the brain from remembering what happens during surgery by putting the patient in an unconscious state. Fear about general anesthesia is quite common, but there are some myths that should be debunked to alleviate some of these concerns. 

A major concern is that a patient will wake up mid-procedure, fully cognizant of what’s going on and sensitive to every action. The basis for this fear is that a finite, designated dose of anesthesia is administered once, based on a patient’s body weight. The truth is that anesthetic is administered and vital signs are monitored constantly. If there is any indication that a patient is waking up, then adjustments are made. 

Another fear, particularly common among laboring women, is that they will have chronic back pain by choosing spinal anesthesia. The truth is that epidurals are the safest form of anesthesia in case of an emergency cesarean, and there is no lasting damage to the woman. As with any surgical procedure, there is risk involved. Approximately 1 in 25,000 epidurals have a chance of causing temporary pain lasting for a few days. 

Many people also assume that the anesthesiologist leaves immediately after administering their dose. The truth is that they remain by the patient’s side throughout the entire procedure, even following them to the post-op room to ensure that they are conscious and alert. They are a huge part of the surgical team and work beside the patient as their health advocate while the doctor focuses on the procedure.

Sometimes, people who have a high pain tolerance think they can undergo procedures without needing anesthesia. In actuality, immunity has nothing to do with pain tolerance. People with high tolerance still feel everything. They just steadfastly endure it. There is, however, a limit to this, since surgery that goes beyond the multiple dermis skin layers into tissue creates a whole new category of pain. In addition to the tolerance issue, a conscious patient who has the ability to move mid-surgery can cause irreparable damage to themselves.