World Anesthesia Day: 5 Common Patient Queries Answered

World Anesthesia Day

Each year, on 16th October, the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) observes World Anaesthesia Day to honor the remarkable achievement in 1846 when diethyl ether anesthesia was first demonstrated successfully. This historic milestone paved the way for pain-free surgical procedures, transforming the medical world.

This year’s World Anaesthesia Day theme is “Anaesthesia and Cancer Care.” It highlights how important anesthesia is in treating cancer and emphasizes the need to improve anesthesia services for better patient outcomes.

What is Anesthesia?
Every day, many patients undergo various surgeries and medical procedures, and these interventions are made possible with the assistance of pain-relieving drugs known as anesthetics. Anaesthesia, which means’ loss of sensation,’ is achieved through these medications. Whether administered as an inhaled gas or injected into the bloodstream by medical experts such as doctors, dentists, or anesthesiologists, anesthesia is vital in making medical treatments painless.

Types of Anesthesia
When it comes to anesthesia, there are three options to choose from. The decision regarding which one to employ is guided by factors such as the procedure’s requirements, health, and surgeon’s preference.

1. Local anesthesia: It numbs a specific, small area of your body and is often employed in minimally invasive procedures like cataract surgery, mole removal etc. During these procedures, you remain fully awake.

2. Sedation: This type of anesthesia is commonly used for minimally invasive procedures like colonoscopies when local anesthesia won’t work, and deep regional anesthesia is not required. Due to the different levels of sedation, from less sleepy to able to talk to deeply sedated, is also referred to as “twilight sleep.” While you won’t be entirely unconscious, you’re less likely to remember the procedure.

3. Regional anesthesia: Regional anesthesia targets a larger part of your body, such as an entire limb or everything below your chest. It’s employed in epidurals for pain relief during childbirth or arm blocks for hand surgery. You may remain aware when this type of anesthesia is used.

4. General anesthesia: Used for major procedures like knee replacement or open heart surgery, induces complete unconsciousness and insensitivity to pain or other stimuli.
When it comes to anesthesia and its delivery, many misconceptions and fears do rounds. Let’s dispel any concerns or misunderstandings about anesthesia, especially in the context of patients, including those undergoing cancer treatments.

Query 1: Does anesthesia always induce a state of sleep?
Answer: Anesthesia does not always send you to deep sleep. Its effects can vary, from numbing specific areas to complete unconsciousness. Anesthesia has different types: local, sedation, regional, and general.  Depending on the type used and the procedure for which it is administered, its effect on sleep may vary.

Query 2: You cannot eat anything before anesthesia
Answer: According to the American Society of Anesthesiology guidelines, it is permissible to consume a light meal up to 6 hours before elective procedures that involve general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, or procedural sedation and analgesia. However, extended fasting (e.g., 8 hours or more) may be necessary if the patient has recently consumed fried foods, fatty foods, or meat[1].

Query 3: Do you have to avoid all liquids before receiving anesthesia?
Answer: Clear liquids such as water, black coffee or tea, pulp-free juices, gelatin, and clear broths can help to maintain patient hydration and stability during critical cancer treatments. These fluids are typically allowed up to 2 hours before procedures involving general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, or procedural sedation and analgesia. This limited time frame ensures rapid digestion and reduces the risk of aspiration[1].

Myth 4: How much you weigh doesn’t affect your risk of complications with anesthesia
Answer: Being overweight can increase your risk of complications during surgery and anesthesia. A major concern is that excess weight increases the likelihood of experiencing sleep apnea, which leads to temporary breathing interruptions during sleep. This can elevate the risks associated with anesthesia, particularly in the case of general anesthesia, which induces loss of consciousness[2].

Myth 5: Individuals who smoke require the same dose of anesthesia as nonsmokers
Answer: Smokers often have irritated airways, possibly requiring increased pain medication doses to manage breathing tube tolerance. As reported in a study, regular marijuana users may need more than double the typical anesthesia for routine procedures[3].

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(The article is written by Dr.Subita Alagh, Senior Executive, and reviewed by Monalisa Deka, Senior Health Content Editor)

1. Practice Guidelines for Preoperative Fasting and the Use of Pharmacologic Agents to Reduce the Risk of Pulmonary Aspiration: Application to Healthy Patients Undergoing Elective Procedures: An Updated Report by the American Society of Anesthesiologists Task Force on Preoperative Fasting and the Use of Pharmacologic Agents to Reduce the Risk of Pulmonary Aspiration. Anesthesiology. 2017; 126(3): 376-393. Available from:
2. American Society of Anesthesiologists. Preparing for surgery. Risks. Obesity. Available online from:
3. King DD, Stewart SA, Collins-Yoder A, Fleckner T, Price LL. Anesthesia for Patients Who Self-Report Cannabis (Marijuana) Use Before Esophagogastroduodenoscopy: A Retrospective Review. AANA J. 2021 Jun;89(3):205-212.Available from:

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