To assist you in understanding medical terms related to surgery, pain management or other medical treatments, we have provided the following definitions. If you have any questions about these, please consult your doctor or anesthesiologist.
Pain that is temporary or short term, which may be severe. An example would be pain after an operation.
This is sometimes called day surgery. It describes any surgical procedure that does not require an overnight hospital stay.
A general term for pain relief, which may or may not involve the loss of bodily sensation or consciousness. See also anesthesia, which is one type of analgesia.
Loss of bodily sensation, with or without loss of consciousness. See also analgesia, which is a more general term.
Patients don't always need to be asleep for their procedure (called general anesthesia). Other options are available. The choice depends on the type of surgery, the medical condition of the patient and patient's preferences. Some methods are outlined in this glossary. Sedation (relaxing drugs) can be combined with any of these to increase patient comfort. At the Preadmission Clinic before your surgery, you may request a consult with an anesthesiologist who can help you choose the best option for your surgery. See also: epidural anesthesia, general anesthesia, local anesthesia, regional anesthesia, sedation and spinal anesthesia.
A medical doctor who specializes in the administration of anesthesia.
Persistent pain, which sometimes – although not always – starts as a result of an injury.
This is similar to spinal anesthesia, which deposits local anesthetic into a fluid space around the nerves in the spine. An epidural also deposits freezing in the spine but in a different space around the nerves. Epidural is used for labour and delivery, whereas spinal anesthesia is typically used for other surgical procedures. See also: general anesthesia, local anesthesia, regional anesthesia, sedation and spinal anesthesia.
The stomach should be empty before surgery. Therefore patients are advised to fast – not to eat or drink – for a number of hours before the scheduled operation.
General anesthesia involves a loss of consciousness (being put to sleep). It is used when surgery is performed on a part of the body that is difficult to freeze locally or regionally, or when other complications are anticipated. At the Preadmission Clinic before your surgery, you may request a consult with an anesthesiologist who can advise whether general anesthesia is the best method for your procedure. See also: epidural anesthesia, local anesthesia, regional anesthesia, sedation and spinal anesthesia.
Small parts of the body are numbed with "freezing" medication. The patient is awake during the procedure. This method is usually used in smaller operations and where numbing is required only in a limited area. See also: epidural anesthesia, general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, sedation and spinal anesthesia.
A genetic condition of muscle that is triggered by specific drugs and results in a high fever. Be sure to tell your anesthesiologist if you or a blood relative has ever had this condition, since certain drugs must be avoided.
A type of anesthesia where a large portion of the body is numbed with "freezing." (for example, for surgery on an arm or leg) The patient is awake during the surgical procedure. Freezing medication is deposited close to major nerves, resulting in numbness to a large area of the body or a limb. See also: epidural anesthesia, general anesthesia, local anesthesia, sedation and spinal anesthesia.
The use of relaxing medications. These are often used together with local and regional anesthesia. See also: epidural anesthesia, general anesthesia, local anesthesia, regional anesthesia and spinal anesthesia.
A type of anesthesia where a needle is placed between the bones of the lower spine. Local anesthetic ("freezing") is placed in the fluid space around the nerves and the lower half of the body is frozen. Examples of procedures where spinal anesthetic might be used are: surgery on a leg, hysterectomy, hemorrhoids, correction of urological incontinence and some gynecological procedures. Spinal anesthesia is similar to epidural, except that it is not used for labour. See also: epidural anesthesia, general anesthesia, local anesthesia, regional anesthesia and sedation.