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An anesthetic is a medicine that helps block pain. It may be used with medicine that will help a person relax, become sleepy or forgetful, or become unconscious for surgery.

Doctors use these medicines and close monitoring to help keep people safe and comfortable during surgery and other procedures.

There are two main types of anesthetics:

  • Local anesthetics numb a part of the body. They can numb a small part of the body or a larger area. For example, they can be used to numb a finger so that stitches can be put in. They can also be used to numb the entire lower body so hip surgery can be done. Local anesthetics are usually given as a shot. But they can also be given in other ways. For example, they can be given in a cream to numb the skin where an IV will be put in.
  • General anesthetics make a person unconscious and unable to feel pain. They are given as a gas that is inhaled or as a shot directly into the bloodstream (IV, through a vein).

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.