Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is an anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologists are physicians (M.D. or D.O.) who have specialized training in providing pain control and caring for the general well-being of patients before, during, and immediately after surgery or other medical procedures.  

At minimum, anesthesiologists have completed four years of college, four years of medical school, a one year internship, and a three year residency in anesthesiology.  In addition, all of our physicians have obtained board certification in anesthesiology.

 

Why is there a preoperative screening/preoperative assessment?

The preoperative screening is a process that asks you to fill out a questionnaire prior to the day of surgery to help us gather information to best prepare for your care.

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The preoperative assessment is a one-on-one meeting between you and your anesthesiologist shortly before surgery.  This time serves a dual purpose.  First, it gives the anesthesiologist the opportunity to meet you and develop a optimal plan for your safety and comfort during surgery.  Second, it gives you the opportunity to ask any questions about your anesthetic.

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What kind of anesthesia will I have?

The are four broad types of anesthesia: general, regional, monitored anesthesia care (MAC), and local.  A discussion with your anesthesiologist during the preoperative assessment will help determine which type of anesthesia is best for your care.  

General anesthesia is a state of control unconsciousness rendered by inhaled or intravenous anesthetics.  General anesthetics can often impair your ability to take deep breaths, so you may receive an airway device to assist with your breathing.  

Regional anesthesia is an anesthetic targeted to a specific "region" of the body.  Examples of regional anesthesia include a nerve block for hand surgery or an epidural for labor.  Many regional anesthetics alone are sufficient for a safe and comfortable experience, but it is common to pair regional anesthesia with sedation for your comfort and relaxation.  In some instances, if your anesthesiologist performs a nerve block you will receive a form with more details to take home with you.

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Monitored anesthesia care (MAC) is, in most cases, a fancy way of saying sedation.  MAC can include mild, moderate, or deep sedation.  All of these forms include intravenous anesthetics carefully titrated to your comfort.  Although not common, MAC can also include careful monitoring during surgery or a procedure without the need for sedatives.      

 

What are the risks of epidural analgesia during childbirth?

Epidurals are performed commonly in our practice and are very safe.  However, all medical procedures have risks.  Risks include infection, bleeding, allergic reaction, or the development of a spinal headache.  The most common complication from epidural administration is a drop in blood pressure as the body and blood vessels relax.  Fortunately, if a blood pressure change does occur, we have medications immediately available to adjust your blood pressure.

Many patients ask us about the risk of injury to nerves or the risk for paralysis.  Both are extremely rare.  Trauma to nerves from an epidural is estimated to be 1 in 10,000 to 20,000.  Even in this rare situation, the nerves typically make a full recovery within weeks to months.

Of important note, sometimes nerves can be injured during labor regardless of whether an epidural was performed.  This is often due to pressure on nerves in the pelvis from the baby's head or from the legs being compressed during the pushing phase of labor.  Fortunately, nerves injured in these situations also typically resolve with time.

Many patients will notice back pain after delivery.  The literature shows that the risk of back pain after vaginal delivery or cesarean section is the same regardless of whether an epidural or spinal was performed or was not performed.  This supports our understanding that in the large majority of cases back pain is not attributable to epidurals or spinals but rather to the changes of the body during pregnancy and the stress put on it during pregnancy and labor.

 

My child is coming for surgery.  What do I need to know about anesthesia?

First of all, know that anesthesia for children is incredibly safe and that we are expertly trained to care for your child.

In our practice, most children go to sleep by general anesthesia via a mask.  One parent or guardian is welcome to accompany your child to the operating suite.  After your child is asleep, a staff member will escort you to the waiting room.  Many children receive an IV shortly after going to sleep, although some children may not need an IV for a very short surgery.  In some circumstances, your child's anesthesiologist might determine it is safest to have an IV placed prior to going to sleep; this discussion will take place during the preoperative evaluation.

For more information regarding the safety of anesthesia in children, please visit smarttots.org

 

How long will it be before my anesthesia wears off?

Depending on your body and on the anesthetic drugs necessary for your care, the duration of the anesthetic can vary.  The majority of the effects of your anesthetic will dissipate prior to discharge from the recovery room.  However, many people may still feel drowsy later that day due to many factors including the stress of surgery on the body, the pain medications taken after surgery, and the lack of sleep leading up to the day of surgery.