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What Is Manipulation under Anesthesia?

By Steven Symes
Updated May 17, 2024
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Manipulation under anesthesia allows physicians to help patients with range of motion problems regain partial or full movement. The procedure involves sedating a patient, and then manually moving different body parts in ways a patient could not achieve under normal conditions. The procedure is usually performed on patients suffering various types of back problems, but it can be used for joint problems in the limbs as well.

Various conditions might be treated by manipulation under anesthesia, including those that result from a violent accident or from trauma suffered after a surgery. A patient might be suffering either acute or chronic pain in certain tissues, which is aggravated by moving in specific ways. The procedure might also be used on patients who suffer from chronic headaches that have been determined by a physician to not have an organic origin. If a person suffers from chronic muscle spasms, the stretching performed during manipulation under anesthesia might also eliminate future headaches.

Patients undergo other treatment options before becoming a candidate for manipulation under anesthesia. First, a patient must undergo non-invasive or conservative procedures such as chiropractic adjustments. Sometimes, patients who have gone through surgery to correct a back problem might also be a candidate for manipulation under anesthesia. A physician must perform a thorough screening of a patient before he can be considered as a candidate for the procedure. The screening might include X-rays, MRI or CT scans as well as a general physical exam.

Medical professionals perform a manipulation under anesthesia in facilities like hospitals or ambulatory surgery centers. Several professionals work together to successfully perform the procedure, similar to how a surgery is performed in a hospital. An anesthesiologist must be present to administer the anesthesia to the patient before the procedure can be performed. At least two health professionals work together to perform the actual procedure. These professionals must either be medical doctors, doctors of osteopathic medicine or doctors of chiropractic and also must be certified to perform manipulation under anesthesia procedures. Other health care workers might be present for the procedure to assist the physicians, such as nurses or medical assistants.

The results of manipulation under anesthesia can vary, as with any medical procedure, depending on the patient’s condition. Undergoing the procedure can break up scar tissues in a patient’s body, or break fibrous adhesions between different tissues, allowing tissues to move freely. Patients might regain some or all range of motion for specific movements, or movements that previously caused them pain might cause little to no pain after the procedure.

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