The 9 Different Types of Anesthesia and how they Arise

What are the Different Types of Anesthesia?

What types of anesthesia are there? If you or someone you care about is preparing for surgery, this is likely one of the many questions on your mind. Perhaps you’re just curious about this oft-overlooked area of pharmacology and medicine. Whatever your interest may be, this article will help you become informed on the subject of different types of anesthesia.

What is Anesthesia?

Before we consider the different types of anesthesia, we should talk about what it is. Simply put, anesthesia is the medical practice of putting patients in a controlled state where they lose sensation and/or awareness. This is most often done for surgery for the patient’s safety and comfort. Anesthesia is a very important and precise area of medicine that is often misunderstood. An anesthesiologist has an incredibly challenging job. Keeping a person safely on the brink of consciousness takes precise balance and years of schooling and experience.

4 Basic Categories

The different types of anesthesia all fall under 4 major categories. That becomes a total of 9 when you break it down into specifics. The four basic categories are:

  1. General Anesthesia
  2. Local/Regional
  3. Epidural and Spinal
  4. MAC with Conscious Sedation.

With that out of the way, we’ll drill down in to the 9 specific types of anesthesia, their purposes, what they have in common and what makes them different. By the end of this piece, you’ll probably know more about anesthesia than anyone you know.

General Anesthesia

This is the one most people first think of. When they “put you under” for surgery. This type makes you completely unconscious and unaware of any feeling. You may be a little disoriented when you wake up. They monitor your breathing during these procedures.


You know what local means. Well, this type of anesthesia usually consists of medication injected near nerves to block pain signals coming from a specific area, like your leg or arm. It also helps with pain for some time afterwards. There are a few different types.


You’ve probably heard of this one before. Epidurals are typically used when delivering a baby in the hospital. A needle is put in the lower back to insert a drug feeding catheter. This numbs the lower half of the body.


Spinal anesthesia is kind of like an epidural. It’s also a shot in the lower back. The only real difference is where they put the needle and the purpose. Usually gynecologic or urologic surgeries, or knee or leg surgery as opposed to delivering a baby.

Interscalene Nerve Block

Usually used for shoulder surgery or surgery on the arm. This is an injection in nerves in the neck, numbing the shoulder and arm.

Femoral Nerve Block

Another kind of local anesthesia used for leg or hip surgeries. Injection is near the nerves in the upper leg/groin. It numbs the leg from the knee up.

Axillary Nerve Block

A type of local anesthesia injected in the armpit, numbing the arm including the hand. Used for arm, elbow or hand surgeries, like carpal tunnel surgery.

Ankle Block

Injected in the ankle to block the nerves that send pain signals from the foot and ankle. Used for foot or ankle surgeries.

MAC (Monitored Anesthesia Care) with Conscious Sedation

This is a mild sedative to relax the nerves. Used in colonoscopy or biopsy along with a local anesthetic.


By now you should have a pretty through understanding of the different types of anesthesia. Therefore, if you’re undergoing surgery, chances are there will be some pain involved before and/or afterwards. Bear in mind that narcotic pain medications are often prescribed in these situations. While narcotic pain medication may be used safely by some for short periods of time, there is always some risk of dependence.

If you or someone you love is dependent on opioid pain medications, the programs at Harmony Health Group can help. Give us a call at (866) 461-4474 or reach out through our contact page for more information