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Anesthesia for Breast Augmentation

Breast augmentation model

General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia used during breast augmentation surgery. Under general anesthesia, you will be asleep throughout the procedure and wake up with no memories. The effects usually subside within a couple of hours, and pain medications taken as needed to control any discomfort that is experienced when the anesthesia wears off.

Types of Anesthesia

Anesthesia is used to prevent pain during surgery by producing the loss of feeling and awareness. General anesthesia renders a state of unconsciousness and is commonly used during breast augmentation surgery. An anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist administers the anesthesia and provides continuous monitoring of your condition.

Your plastic surgeon will address anesthesia at your consultation and make a recommendation based on his or her preferences, the details of your surgery, your health and any medications you are taking, and any other pertinent factors.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia produces a state of unconsciousness where the patient is free of any pain, immobilized, unaware of anything that is happening and wakes up with no memories. General anesthesia is commonly used during breast augmentation surgery.

Medications used for general anesthesia are supplied intravenously through an IV, breathed into the lungs or both. After being lightly sedated, a laryngeal mask airway (LMA) or an endotracheal tube connected to a ventilator is used to maintain your airway while you are asleep. The anesthesia is administered by an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist, who continually monitors your oxygen levels, blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate throughout the procedure. See our section on anesthesiologist certification for information to how to verify that your anesthesiologist is board-certified.

When the procedure is complete, the medication is discontinued and the patient wakes up in the surgery recovery area. You may be groggy and lightheaded at first, but the effects of the anesthesia usually subside quickly and most patients feel "normal" within an hour or two. After the anesthesia wears off, pain medications may be given as needed to control any discomfort from the surgery.

Patients may experience nausea and vomiting as a reaction to the anesthesia used during surgery. It usually lasts less than 24 hours and is treated with lots of fluids, rest and over-the-counter medications. Contact your doctor if you experience severe vomiting or if nausea lasts longer than a couple of days.

Twilight Sedation

During twilight sedation, or conscious sedation, the patient remains conscious and breaths on their own, but is sedated to the point of a light sleep. Twilight sedation is used during breast augmentation surgery, but is not as common as general anesthesia.

Twilight sedation is used in combination with local or regional anesthesia to numb the area being worked on by the doctor. The medications are the same or similar to those used for general anesthesia, but in smaller doses. The anesthesia is administered and monitored by an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. Twilight sedation usually wears off quickly after the procedure and is less likely than general anesthesia to cause nausea or vomiting.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is used to numb and prevent pain in a small area of the body. Local anesthesia is often used during breast augmentation surgery in conjunction with general anesthesia or twilight sedation.

Local anesthesia is induced by the injection of numbing medication after the site is cleaned with an antibacterial cleanser. A burning or stinging sensation may be felt for a few seconds before the area goes numb. After the medicine takes effect, pressure can be felt but no pain is experienced. Local anesthesia wears off quickly after the procedure and feeling returns within a few hours.

Regional Anesthesia

Regional anesthesia is used to block sensation to a specific region of the body, such as an arm or leg, by interrupting the conductivity of sensory nerves. Regional anesthesia is generally not used for breast augmentation surgery.

Several different techniques are included in this category, including epidural anesthesia, spinal anesthesia and techniques that involve injection of local anesthetic agents around the nerves that lead to the site of the procedure.

After regional anesthesia is administered, the patient is conscious but unable to feel pain in the area of the block, though pressure may still be felt. Also, muscles in the area are paralyzed, unlike local anesthesia. The medication generally wears off, and feeling returned to the affected area, within a few hours.