General anesthesia is still widely used for many surgical operations, especially those which may be especially painful or complicated by a conscious patient. Among its many advantages is the fact that you can “go to sleep” and awaken after your surgery is over, with no memory of the operation whatsoever. The downside, however, is the number of risks associated with general anesthesia.
Whenever you are put under general anesthesia, there is a trained anesthesiologist present to monitor your vitals. That means extra fees for an anesthesiologist and a whole set of issues to be monitored. Your breathing is usually regulated by a respirator and heart rate must be checked constantly, since the anesthesia can lower it to dangerous levels. In fact, many people with serious heart conditions can’t even get general anesthesia. In addition, recovery from general anesthesia is a relatively long process, one that requires downtime and after-effects. Also, when general anesthesia is administered, a patient is not awake. Therefore a doctor performing liposuction can be rough and the patient will not know it until bruising appears after the procedure.
Local anesthesia may include a wide range of pharmacological properties, but the principle remains the same: Unlike general anesthesia, local anesthesia blocks pain receptors only in the targeted region. This means that the rest of the body’s systems remain relatively unfazed, except in rare cases of allergic or other reactions. There is much less risk to respiration and no unconsciousness to recover from. Also, since patients are awake, the doctor is gentle and precise with his movements, leading to a smoother recovery.
As a case study, the use of local anesthesia during liposuction is illuminating. Tumescent liposuction allows doctors to perform this procedure without the use of general anesthesia. This is facilitated by the tumescent fluid used during this procedure, from which it derives its name. This fluid contains lidocaine, an effective local anesthetic that numbs the tissue. The lidocaine-containing fluid is pumped into the fatty tissue using a thin metal tube, known as a cannula. This fluid saturates the targeted area, making the fat easier to remove while numbing the area. When the fat is suctioned out, there is no pain.