Anesthesiology is the medical practice that cares for you before, during and after surgery. The anesthesiologist’s goal is to ensure your safety, alleviate discomfort, and provide the best path to your recovery. Once you’ve made the decision to have surgery, the anesthesiologist is very much involved in every facet of your surgical plan. We’ll empower you with specifics on the process to prepare you for your procedure and help you return quickly to normal life.
Types of anesthesia
There are several types of anesthesia available, that can be chosen based on a patient’s medical history, the planned operation or preference.
General anesthesia is probably the method you’re most familiar with, as it’s often depicted on TV shows. General anesthesia puts you into a deep sleep where you’ll feel nothing and remember nothing about the surgery. It’s delivered either through gas that you breathe into your lungs through a facemask or a breathing tube. It can also be given as an IV into your bloodstream. Sometimes both IV and gas methods are used to relax you and relieve pain.
Sedation anesthesia is another form of general anesthesia. Sedation is described as a state of consciousness, somewhere between completely relaxed and not quite unconscious. (You may also hear this called “twilight sleep.) Patients are able to breathe on their own and maintain cardiovascular function, although some respiratory support may still be used for safety. The sedation method may help patients recover quicker than with general anesthesia.
Local anesthesia numbs only a part of the body – unlike general anesthesia, which affects the whole body. It allows the patient to remain awake and alert during the procedure. Sometimes also called an epidural, regional nerve block or spinal, this method offers many advantages. It’s great for minor procedures that can be completed quickly so the patient can return home the same day. It also reduces the amount of pain medicine needed and the possibility of nausea or vomiting after.
What an anesthesiologist does
An anesthesiologist is a physician who will…
Before the procedure, make sure to follow your anesthesiologist’s instructions regarding when to stop eating and drinking.
Tell your doctor about any medicine (prescribed and over-the-counter), diet supplements, herbs, alcohol or drugs you take. You’ll be asked to discontinue these before surgery, too, so they don’t interfere with the anesthesia. Ask the doctor when it’s okay to start taking them again after surgery.
After the procedure, the surgeon will know it’s safe for you to leave the hospital when you can…
Remember that you still won’t be 100% while you heal. Have a family member or friend who can drive you home and stay with you. The effects of anesthesia can last for 24 hours so it’s important to have someone who can watch you for any complications and help you feel safe as you come out of any grogginess. Your surgical team will give you specific instructions to follow and schedule a follow-up appointment to monitor your progress. Generally speaking, those instructions will tell you not to drive or try to lift anything heavy.
General anesthesia and pain medicine can make you feel queasy. Even if you feel fine right after the surgery, you could possibly have nausea and vomiting later. You may also experience a sore throat, hoarseness, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.
Meet your anesthesiologist
Alamelu S. Nagappan, MD