Staying Informed Is Key
The more informed you are the better prepared you will be for surgery. That preparation is key to a successful overall experience! We encourage you to ask questions and to learn as much as you can before any surgical procedure.
To get you started, here are some of the most common questions we hear.
Click on the questions below to see the answers.
Anesthesia in General
What Is an Anesthesiologist?
Anesthesiologists are physician specialists who have the critical responsibility for your welfare before, during and after surgery. This care includes medically evaluating you before surgery (preoperative), consulting with the surgical team, providing pain control and support of life functions during surgery (intraoperative), supervising your care after surgery (postoperative) and medically discharging you from the recovery unit.
Many of our physicians have completed subspecialty fellowships in anesthesia, which require additional years of training.
What Kinds of Anesthesia Are There?
“Anesthesia” means “without feeling” and can be local, regional or general. Each type of anesthesia serves a specific purpose and demands special training and skill.
- In local anesthesia, an anesthetic drug is injected into the tissue around a nerve, numbing the specific area requiring minor surgery. You may be fully awake or sedated. It is a very safe procedure.
- In regional anesthesia, your anesthesiologist makes an injection near a cluster of nerves to numb the area that requires surgery. You may remain awake, or you may be given a sedative and lose consciousness.
- In general anesthesia, you will “go to sleep,” in other words become unconscious, and have no awareness or any other sensation.
- During surgery, you are carefully monitored and treated by your anesthesiologist, using state-of-the-art equipment to track your major bodily functions. At the conclusion of surgery, your anesthesiologist will allow you to emerge from anesthesia and then accompany you to the recovery unit.
What Are the Risks?
All operations and all anesthetics carry some risks, depending on the type of surgery performed and the patient’s medical condition. Fortunately, adverse events are rare. To reduce anesthetic risk, please take the following measures:
- Provide complete information about your health and medical history.
- Strictly follow the fasting guidelines.
- Use only authorized medications, drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements.
- Be informed! Consult with both your surgeon and your anesthesiologist about any risks associated with your specific situation.
- If you decide to consult the Internet for information, be sure to locate reputable, respected sources or follow the links included on this page.
Fasting Guidelines: What Are the Diet Restrictions Before My Anesthesia?
Fasting before surgery is absolutely essential for your safety. After midnight on the night before your surgery, you should not eat or drink anything. Under certain circumstances, your anesthesiologist may permit you to drink clear liquids up to a few hours before anesthesia. Elective surgery may be canceled if fasting instructions are not followed.
Tip: Simplify your diet as the date of your surgery approaches. Limit your intake of caffeine, sweets, greasy foods and alcohol.
Can I Take My Usual Medicines?
It is extremely important that your surgeon and your anesthesiologist have a complete list of your medications. They will help you determine which ones you can safely take at the time of surgery. Do not interrupt medications unless you are instructed otherwise.
Tip: It is not unusual to become a bit distracted as the date of surgery approaches, so start making a list of your prescriptions and other important personal medical information well ahead of time.
Will Dietary Supplements and Herbal Medicines Affect My Anesthesia During Surgery?
Anesthesiologists have discovered, through first-hand experience and ongoing medical research, that certain vitamins, dietary supplements and herbal medicines interact with certain anesthetics. In fact, supplements and herbs may prolong the effects of anesthesia, increase the risk of bleeding or raise blood pressure. Give your doctor a complete list before surgery, so that there are no unexpected complications during surgery. (Some examples of herbal medicines include echinacea, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, ginger, etcetera.)
The Day of Surgery
Step One: Stay Calm
Breathe deeply and relax as much as you can. If possible, bring a close friend or family member along for support.
Step Two: Checking In
Once you check into the hospital or surgery center and your paperwork has been completed, you will meet with a preoperative nurse. He or she will briefly review your medical history, record your vital signs and ask you to change into a hospital gown. You will then be taken to a preoperative waiting area.
Step Three: Preoperative Interview
Your anesthesiologist will meet with you to review your medical and surgical history; perform a focused physical examination; discuss any medical conditions needing attention during surgery; order final lab work, if necessary; explain the plan for your anesthetic as well as alternatives and risks; and address your questions and concerns. The anesthesiologist may place an intravenous catheter (IV) and may also give intravenous medication to help you relax.
Step Four: During Surgery
The anesthesiologist is responsible for your safety, comfort and well-being throughout the surgical procedure — directing and regulating your anesthetic, managing vital functions and, when necessary, managing fluid and blood replacement.
Where and How Will I Wake Up?
You may be drowsy and mildly confused as you awaken from general anesthesia or sedation. Your initial recovery will take place in a specialized area called the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) or recovery room. Nurses with specialized training or ICU experience will closely monitor your vital signs and overall condition. Your anesthesiologist will check in to see how you are doing and whether you need any further pain medication. You will stay in the PACU until you meet the criteria for discharge to your hospital room or home.
Will I Have Pain or Nausea When I Wake Up?
Despite all efforts to prevent these unwanted consequences of surgery and anesthesia, it is possible that you will experience pain or nausea in the PACU. If you experience pain or nausea, alert the nursing staff immediately. Some individuals are more prone to these symptoms than others. Fortunately, there are postoperative medications available to control pain, nausea and vomiting. Note that a sore throat after anesthesia is not uncommon and should disappear within a day or two. If you experience a persistent sore throat, please contact our office or your surgeon for advice.