Anesthesia and The Nervous System
Anesthetic agents slow down the central nervous system and ultimately cause a loss of consciousness. There are two classifications for these types of agents. An anesthetic can either be considered general or local.
In the early 1800’s anesthetics were used in surgery in the form of nitrous oxide. This form is still commonly used today in dental offices. Several anesthetics that were used by the mid 1800’s, like chloroform and ether, are either hardly used or are no longer used in modern medicine due to the health problems they have been associated with.
A general anesthetic is primarily used for surgical purposes. A specialized healthcare provider must be trained to administer general anesthesia. Only an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist can administer this type of anesthesia, which is usually inhaled through a mask or breathing tube.
A general anesthetic can either be one pure form of a medication or a mixture of medications. An anesthetic that consists of a mixture of medications is called “balanced anesthesia” and is only administered depending on the patients health, medical history, age, weight and known allergies.
A balanced anesthesia is often used on patients who may have cardiovascular problems and is often administered in phases. It is also used when less general anesthetic is needed or to reduce potential post-anesthetic nausea and vomiting. A balanced anesthesia is also gentler on organs and is often easier for patients to recover from with fewer adverse side effects.
A patient that is preparing for surgery is often given a hypnotic drug to be used the night before the surgery. This drug is administered to help the patient get a good night’s sleep.
On the day of the planned surgery, the patient may be given several other premedications. These types of drugs are generally used to help decrease anxiety and sedate the patient. The anesthesia can be administered as an inhaled gas or through an intravenous tube.