When doctors at Sir Hurkisondas Nurrottamdas Hospital cut open Balakrisna Rao’s (64) back and removed a portion of his vertebral bone, he was discussing cricket with them.
The marine navigator from Bangalore underwent a laminectomy (a spinal surgery) at the hospital on March 2. The doctors performed the major surgery under regional anaesthesia, where only a specific region of the body is numbed. “I felt no pain during the surgery despite being awake,” said Rao.
Experts say advances in technology and better knowledge of medicines and the human anatomy have helped make regional anaesthesia more successful.
Some doctors say regional anaesthesia is more comfortable, less risky and helps an easier recovery. In some cases, patients can watch doctors perform the surgery on the numbed body part.
Dr Manju Bhutani, head of the anaesthesia department at P.D. Hinduja National Hospital said there had been a resurgence of regional anaesthesia over the last 10 years. “We have better catheters, portable ultrasound devices and nerve stimulators to detect nerves and better molecules which provide longer lasting pain blocks,” she said.
Dr Hemant Mehta, a consultant anaesthetist with several south Mumbai hospitals, said, the procedure is one of the safest except for patients taking blood thinners or anti-coagulants and having a high risk of bleeding.
He said, “Under general anaesthesia, patient’s safety responses are suppressed. This may lead to complications.” But not all anaesthetists are convinced. “In surgeries lasting eight to 12 hours, it is difficult for the patient to lie in one position,” said Dr Satish Kulkarni, head of the anaesthesia department at Lilavati Hospital.