In your question you say that how can anesthesia block the tactile and painful sensitivity of a person. To answer you I have to explain what anesthesia is. The first thing to say is that it is very important because without it, a large part of the surgeries that are done right now could not be performed. For example, if a heart operation is necessary, it can only be done thanks to anesthetic techniques. Surgery has come a long way thanks to the fact that there is a very rigorous and personalized anesthetic technique for each patient. The person who takes care of you while you are being operated on is an anesthesiologist, has studied medicine and then has done his specialty.
There are three types of anesthesia: general; the regional one that refers to when we anesthetize only a large part of the body (an arm, one leg, both legs, etc.) and the local one that is when we anesthetize only a very small area (for example the ball of the finger if we have done a wound and you have to sew). General anesthesia is when we are completely asleep. For this we can apply four components that together make this general anesthesia possible. Each of these drugs has a function: some of them are drugs that we give to cause amnesia, that is, so that we do not remember that moment; other of the drugs are hypnotic, they put the patient into a deep sleep; others are analgesics so that it does not hurt and the latter are muscle relaxants so that although the surgeon stimulates the muscle, it does not contract and this is necessary for some types of surgery.
These drugs work as they should because they block or favor some type of receptor that is related to the function on which they want to act. When the human body receives a stimulus, it is transmitted to the neurons of the brain, which is the one that interprets what is happening. For example, if I am burned, the brain receives a signal that interprets that I am in pain because I am burning (and that allows me to remove my hand from the fire). Anesthetic drugs act on the pathways that send these stimuli to the brain. If I give the patient a pain reliever so they don’t have pain, what that pain reliever does is block those messengers (called neurotransmitters) that tell the brain that pain is occurring.
At the microscopic level, what happens is that cell membranes have many receptors, each with a specific function. Anesthetic drugs act by inhibiting the specific receptors of the function on which they want to act. This allows us to block only the sensitivity that is wanted and not the entire body. In addition to painful sensitivity, the body has tactile, thermal, vibratory sensitivity and proprioception, which is what allows us to know the position of the body at all times. For anesthesia I can block all the sensitive pathways or only some of them, such as the painful one. A typical case of this is the epidural anesthesia that is used in deliveries and that is a regional anesthesia. In this case, only the sensitivity to pain is blocked, but not the motor, the anesthetized person stops having pain but can move.
The work of doctors and anesthesia doctors begins before the operation because before the surgery they must make an evaluation of the patient. They see how the heart is, how the lungs are, etc. and they design the specific plan for that patient, they make you like an ITV so that you have the least possible complications. And depending on how you are and what surgery you are going to undergo, they also design the anesthesia you will need and they are by your side until you go to the hospitalization room from the post-anesthetic recovery unit (PACU) or critical care. In case of cardiac arrest or serious reaction during your admission, we will also be the professionals who will take care of stabilizing you and administering the cardiopulmonary resuscitation drugs.
Carolina Soledad Romero She is a doctor of Anesthesia, Resuscitation and Pain Treatment of the Consorcio Hospital General Universitario de Valencia, a professor at the European University of Valencia and a member of the Spanish society (SEDAR) and of the Committee of Clinical Guidelines of the ESAIC (European Society of Anesthesia and Intensive Care).
Question sent via email by the 3rd ESO students of the Institute of Secondary Education Mister d’Elx of Alicante.
Coordination and writing: Victoria Toro
We respond is a weekly scientific clinic, sponsored by the Dr. Antoni Esteve Foundation and the program L’Oréal-Unesco ‘For Women in Science’, that answers the doubts of the readers about science and technology. They are scientists and technologists, partners of MY T (Association of Women Researchers and Technologists), those that answer those doubts. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter #nosotrasrespondemos.