One factor of plastic surgery that many patients find themselves worrying about, more than the possible risks of the procedure itself and more than the length of the recovery period, is the type of anesthesia that will be used during it. While all forms of anesthesia keep a patient from feeling any pain during the surgery, not all forms of anesthesia are created equally. Some options are a lot more in depth than others and are better suited for some surgeries than for others.
The type of anesthesia a surgeon uses during a procedure depends on the length of the surgery, how complex it is and your comfort level as a patient. Even if a surgery is usually performed using a less intense type of anesthesia, your surgeon might agree to something stronger if it makes you feel more comfortable.
Local anesthesia numbs the area that the surgeon will be operating on, not your entire body. Usually, you can still be alert and aware of what’s going on during the procedure when you receive a local anesthestic. If you’ve ever had a cavity filled or a mole biopsied, you might have received local anesthetic beforehand. Common examples of local anesthetics include novocaine and lidocaine.
Typically, the anesthetic is given through an injection, but it’s also possible for it to be applied topically. In some cases, injectable fillers, such as Juvederm, contain a local anesthetic, which reduces discomfort during and after the injection. In the case of facial plastic surgery, local anesthesia is reserved for short procedures, such as the S-lift. It can also be used on its own during an eyelid lift, but is often used with sedation.
Sometimes called twilight sedation, conscious sedation makes a patient drowsy and groggy during surgeries such as eyelid lifts. While you might be able to talk to your surgeon during the procedure while sedated and can be able to respond to questions asked of you, in most cases, you won’t really be able to remember what went on during the surgery. If you’re squeamish, that can be a good thing.
The sedative is usually given to patients through an intravenous drip (IV). Some amount of monitoring is needed to make sure too much sedative isn’t given and to make sure the patient is still breathing properly. Usually, an anesthesiologist will be present to make sure that the right amount of sedative is administered and that the patient isn’t experiencing any ill effects.
If you are going to be sedated during your surgery, your surgeon will usually give you specific instructions for preparing for the procedure. You might be asked not to eat or drink after a certain time of day, for example. Since the effects of the sedative wear off quickly, you will most likely be able to go home just a couple of hours after the surgery.
General anesthesia is the most in-depth type of anesthetic. Typically used for more complicated, longer surgeries, such as a full facelift, general anesthesia puts you completely to sleep — you’ll be unable to feel pain or to make any movements on your own during the procedure.
When you receive general anesthesia, your entire body relaxes, including your airway and digestive tract muscles. To keep food and liquid from traveling from your stomach to your lungs while you’re under anesthesia, surgeons typically advise patients to avoid eating anything starting at around midnight the night before their surgery. You might be allowed to have some water or other liquids a few hours before surgery, though.
It’s common for general anesthesia to be given through an IV line, though some patients prefer to breathe in gas through a mask. If you’re very nervous about the idea of going under, you might also receive a sedative before the anesthesia. Close monitoring is a must when a patient is fully under. An anesthesiologist will keep a close eye on your breathing, blood pressure and temperature during the surgery, as well as any medicines you might be on.
Waking up after general anesthesia can take a bit longer than waiting for a sedative to wear off. You might also experience a few more side effects. Nausea is among the more common side effects, as is hoarseness and grogginess. Your surgeon can give you an anti-nausea medication to help you cope afterwards.
If you are going to receive IV sedation or general anesthesia, be certain that your procedure is being performed in a facility accredited for this type of anesthesia (hospital or outpatient surgery center, not an office) and that there will be a physician anesthesiologist on site to supervise its administration and your recovery. That will ensure you the highest level of safety and care.
Choosing the right anesthesia option is almost as important as choosing the right surgeon. Don’t let fear of going under keep you from exploring surgery, though. Modern advances in anesthesia technology have considerably reduced the risks involved in going under. If you work with a board certified facial plastic surgeon, such as Dr. Michael Schwartz, who also works with an anesthesiologist, you can rest assured that you are in good hands during and after your surgery. To learn more about facial plastic surgery and anesthesia, schedule a consultation with Dr. Schwartz today by calling 561-655-5562.