Understanding Anesthesia

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice or to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.
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What is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is the use of medicine to prevent or reduce the feeling of pain during a surgery or procedure. Anesthesia can be given as an injection or through a gas that is inhaled. Anesthesia works by blocking nerve impulses, which trigger the feeling of pain.

Role of the Anesthesiologist

An anesthesiologist is a doctor who specializes in administering anesthesia. Your anesthesiologist is responsible for managing critical body functions during surgery, such as breathing, blood pressure, oxygen levels, body temperature, heart rhythm and heart rate. The most important role of the anesthesiologist is to monitor the patient every second of the procedure to ensure the patient’s vital organs are functioning properly. The anesthesiologist will handle any problems that arise during surgery and will help manage pain after surgery. The goal is to keep the patient comfortable before, during and after surgery. Often times, a sedative is given prior to entering the operating room to keep the patient relaxed and calm.  

Types of Anesthesia

Local Anesthesia:​ anesthesia is given to stop the sensation of pain in a particular area of the body. It is usually given as an injection directly into the area where the procedure will be performed With local anesthesia, the patient is awake (but may also be given a sedative). Procedures that require local anesthesia are typically minor and allow the patient to return home the same day.

Regional Anesthesia:​ anesthesia is given to numb a larger portion of the body. An injection is given near a cluster of nerves to numb the entire area. Patients may be awake and sedated. The two most common types of regional anesthesia are ​spinal anesthesia​ and ​epidural anesthesia​. An ‘epidural’ given during childbirth is one of the most common uses for epidural anesthesia.

General Anesthesia:​ anesthesia is given to make the patient unconscious during the surgery. It can be given through an IV or gases that are inhaled through a breathing mask. The patient is asleep during the surgery, with no awareness or memory of the surgical procedure.

Preparing for Surgery

It’s extremely important that your anesthesiologist evaluates your medical history and current condition, prior to surgery. The following information should be part of your conversation:

Prior Surgery:​ discuss previous experiences with anesthesia in as much detail as possible. Share what your reaction was and the symptoms you experienced (i.e. it took you a long time to wake up; you were very nauseous)

Medications and Supplements:​ share any medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter medications), as well as any vitamins and herbal supplements. You may be advised to stop taking certain medications (such as aspirin) or herbal supplements days or weeks prior to surgery.

Allergies:​ discuss any allergies you have to medications or substances such as soy products, eggs, latex, etc.

Smoking & Alcohol Use:​ cigarette smoking and alcohol affect your vital body organs, such as your heart, lungs, liver, etc. Therefore, smoking or drinking alcohol can cause complications both during and after surgery, in the recovery process. It is ​strongly ​advised to quit smoking several weeks prior to surgery.

Drug Use:​ if you use or have used any illegal drugs or have a history of drug abuse, it’s important to share that information. Remember, this information will remain ​confidential​ -the priority for an anesthesiologist is to get you through surgery safely.

Side Effects of General Anesthesia

The good news is that most side effects from general anesthesia go away relatively quickly. The most common side effects include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Sore Throat
  • Muscle Aches
  • Itching
  • Chills and Shivering
  • Confusion
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