Patients

Introduction

 

Welcome to the patient education section of this website.  Here you will find some answers to questions about the anesthesia for your surgery.  If you would like more information, please visit the link to the patient education section of the American Society of Anesthesiologists website: http://www.asahq.org/Home/For-the-Public-and-Media


Frequently Asked Questions
 

What is anesthesiology?

Anesthesiology is the practice of medicine dedicated to the total care of the surgical patient before, during, and after surgery.  Anesthesiology also includes the subspecialties of pain management and care for the patient in the intensive care unit.

Who are anesthesiologists?

Anesthesiologists are physicians who specialize in the care of the patient throughout the entire surgical experience.  That includes assessing the patient's health before surgery and caring for the patient during surgery and in the recovery room.

Anesthesiologists undergo rigorous training.  It starts with a minimum of four years of college and four years of medical school.  After receiving the medical degree, anestheiologists need to have four years of residency and then take a nationwide exam to become board certified.  Many anesthesiologists will do an extra year in subspecialty training in such fields as critical care, pain management, cardiac anesthesia and pediatric anesthesia.

What are the different kinds of anesthesia?

There are several types of anesthesia.  The one that is used depends on the surgery and the patient.  Check with your surgeon and anesthesiologist to see what type is best for you.

Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC)
This type of anesthesia is used when there is a small specific surgical site.  The surgeon will inject local anesthesia at that site, and the anesthesiologist will provide sedation to keep you comfortable and help you remember as much or little as you want.  This type of anesthesia is most commonly used for cataract surgery.

Regional Anesthesia
With these techniques, the anesthesiologist will inject local anethesia near a cluster of nerves to numb the area of the body where the surgery will occur.  The most common types of regional anesthesia are spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia.  These are done by injecting local anesthesia in the back of the patient at the level of the surgery.  Sometimes a thin catheter is left in to provide additional medication during and after surgery.  During surgery, the anesthesiologist can provide sedation to keep you as relaxed as you want.  Spinals and epidurals are most commonly used in the obstetrical patient.

General Anesthesia
This technique is the most common.  With general anethesia ou are unconscious and have no awareness or any other sensations for the entire surgery.  After you are unconscious, a special airway tube (endotracheal tube) is placed in your windpipe (trachea) to control your breathing and to provide anesthesia.  Other drugs for pain and nausea are also given.  At the end of the surgery, the anesthesiologist will reverse the drugs and you will regain consiousness and awareness in the recovery room.   

What are the risks of anesthesia?

The risks of anesthesia are very low.  The anesthesiologist will closely monitor all your vital signs to prevent any issues from occurring during surgery.  If you have any concerns, please discuss them with your surgeon and anesthesiologist.

What about eating and drinking?

It is best to avoid all food and drink after midnight before your surgery.  This is to prevent anything from your stomach going into your lungs during the anesthesia and leading to a life threatening pneumonia.

Under special circumstances, you may be allowed to drink clear liquids (such as water) a few hours before surgery; however, it is very important to discuss this with your anesthesiologist.

What about my usual medications?

It is important to check with your anesthesiologist or surgeon about what medications you can take on the day of surgery.  This is especially important if you have diabetes because your insulin may need to be modified on the day of surgery.

What about herbal medications and diet supplements?

It is very important to tell your doctor what herbal medicines or dietary supplements you are taking.  Some have side effects such as increasing bleeding and raising blood pressure.