Q: What is Anesthesiology?
A: Anesthesiology is a medical specialty focused on the care and pain management of patients before, during and after surgery. Anesthesiologists monitor patient comfort and safety during surgical procedures, and they manage post-surgical pain abatement. Anesthesiology continues to evolve and progress with the advent of increasingly sophisticated monitoring equipment, and safer and more specialized anesthetics in recent years.
These advances have made anesthesia safer and more effective. There are fewer side effects with today’s anesthetics than those used in the past, thereby improving patient comfort and recovery post-procedure.
Q: What is an Anesthesiologist?
A: An anesthesiologist is a physician with special training in pain management. As anesthesiologists, our physicians focus on providing pain abatement and relief before, during, and after surgical procedures. Each of our physicians has completed four years of specialized anesthesiology training upon graduation from medical school. Many of our anesthesiologists also have completed advanced anesthesia fellowships in subspecialties such as pediatric anesthesia, obstetrical anesthesia, neuroanesthesia, cardiac anesthesia, and pain management.
Q: What kinds of anesthesia are there?
A: Anesthesia can be broken down into three main classifications: local, regional and general.
Local anesthesia – Used during minor surgical procedures, the anesthetic drug is generally injected into the tissue to numb just a specific location of your body. You remain awake for the duration of the procedure.
Regional anesthesia – An injection is made to numb a cluster of nerves near the area of your body that requires surgery. You may remain awake or be given a sedative, but you will not see or feel the actual surgery take place.
There are several kinds of regional anesthesia. Two of the most frequently used are spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia, which are injections made with great exactness in the appropriate areas of the back. They are frequently preferred for childbirth and prostate surgery.
General anesthesia – A general anesthetic drug will be used during a procedure that requires you to be unconscious and have no awareness or other sensations. Some are gases or vapors inhaled through a breathing mask or tube, and others are medications introduced through a vein.
During anesthesia, you are carefully monitored, controlled and treated by your anesthesiologist, who uses sophisticated equipment to track all your major bodily functions. A breathing tube may be inserted through your mouth and frequently into the windpipe to maintain proper breathing during this period. The length and level of anesthesia is calculated and constantly adjusted with great precision. At the conclusion of surgery, your anesthesiologist will reverse the process and you will regain awareness in the recovery room.
Q: How can I be sure I won’t wake up during anesthesia?
A: Only certain procedures require the patient to be totally unconscious. In those instances, we continually monitor your heart rate, blood pressure and muscle control to ensure you do not feel, nor wake up from, the effects of surgery.
Q: Are there risks associated with anesthesia?
A: There are always going to be some risks with all operations and anesthetics. They are dependent upon many factors, including the type of surgery and the medical condition of the patient. Fortunately, serious adverse effects are very rare and we take the necessary precautions to prevent these from occurring. You should ask your anesthesiologist about any risks that may be associated with your anesthesia.
Q: What about eating or drinking before my anesthesia?
A: As a general rule, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery. Under some circumstances, you may be given permission to drink clear liquids up to a few hours before your anesthesia.
Q: Should I take my usual medicines?
A: Do not interrupt medications unless your anesthesiologist or surgeon recommends it.
Anesthesiologists are conducting research to determine exactly how certain herbs and dietary supplements interact with certain anesthetics. They are finding that certain herbal medicines may prolong the effects of anesthesia. Others may increase the risks of bleeding or raise blood pressure. Some effects may be subtle and less critical, but we like to anticipate a possible reaction rather that reacting to an unexpected condition; it is very important to tell your doctor about everything you take before surgery.
Q: How is the epidural block performed for labor and delivery?
A: An epidural block is an injection given in the lower back, with the patient either sitting or lying on her side. We use a local anesthetic to numb your lower back before a special needle is inserted into the epidural space just outside the spinal sac.