Eliminating pain during surgery has come a long way and allowed doctors
to solve many more health problems. Just 50 years ago, ether was state
of the art and a stethoscope was the only way to monitor patients.
Today, anesthesiologists monitor a whole range of body functions and vital
signs, such as breathing, blood oxygen, blood pressure and heart rate
to protect your health. Advances in patient monitoring, improved anesthetic
agents and new drug therapies have dramatically reduced the number of
complications from anesthesia, especially
Anesthesiologists use their clinical expertise and advanced technology
to ensure the safest care for patients. They provide anesthesia services
for a wide variety of surgical procedures and childbirth. They also treat
acute and chronic pain.
Anesthesiologists adhere to more than 30 standards and guidelines developed by the
American Society of Anesthesiologists for the care of patients before, during and after surgery or childbirth.
In This Section
How Anesthesia Works
Your body has a network of billions of nerve cells that connect your brain
and spinal cord. This nervous system spreads messages throughout your
body, including messages of injury that translate as pain sensations.
The goal of anesthesia is to block these signals.
There are four anesthetic options:
General anesthesia - This produces unconsciousness so that your brain does not perceive any
pain signals from the nervous system and you don't feel, see or hear anything
during the procedure.
Regional anesthesia - This eliminates pain in a larger part of the body by temporarily blocking
large groups of nerves or the spinal cord so that the pain signal cannot
reach the brain. It produces numbness and loss of sensation in the region
of the body corresponding to the surgical procedure. Epidural or spinal
anesthesia are examples. They produce numbness of the abdomen and both
lower legs. You may get sedatives to make you comfortable and drowsy.
Monitored anesthesia care (MAC) - With this approach, you usually receive pain medication and sedatives
through your IV. The surgeon also will inject local anesthesia into the
skin, which will provide additional pain control during and after the
Local anesthesia - This blocks a small area and doesn't affect your over all consciousness.
The surgeon injects local anesthetic to provide numbness at the surgical
site. This doesn't require the presence of an anesthesiologist.
The type of anesthesia selected for you will be based on the type of surgery,
your medical conditions and your preferences.
Preoperative Patient Instructions
Your anesthesiologist is responsible for insuring your safety and comfort
during surgery and for providing optimal conditions for your surgeon to
perform the procedure. You can help by following these general instructions
for your comfort, health and safety. (Your surgeon may give you other
- Do not eat or drink anything for six hours before arrival at the hospital.
This includes gum, candy, mints, coffee, milk and other food. You shouldn't
consume alcoholic beverages for at least 24 hours prior to surgery. You
may have water only up until 4 hours before your scheduled surgery. If
you do not follow the eating and drinking instructions faithfully, your
stomach may not be empty. This increases your risk of getting stomach
contents into your lungs under anesthesia-a potentially life-threatening
situation. Also, you are more likely to be sick after surgery. Unless
you have had nothing to eat or drink for the required time, your surgery
may be delayed or cancelled for your own protection.
- If you smoke, please refrain. Surgery is a great time to quit. Those smokers
who quit around the time of their surgery tended to have fewer problems
with nicotine withdrawal, according to a review in Anesthesiology. Plus,
you'll fare better than those who keep smoking. The review found non-smokers
heal faster and are less likely to suffer problems with anesthesia.
- Take the medicine that you are told to take (with a small amount of water)
on the morning of surgery. If you take blood pressure medication, take
it in the morning with a sip of water, or as directed by the nurse.
- Call your personal physician for advice if you take aspirin, anti-inflammatory
medications or blood thinners on a daily basis.
- Do not take any herbal or diet medications for at least one week before surgery.
- Use your inhalers and bring them with you on the day of surgery.
- Bring your CPAP machine if you plan to stay in the hospital overnight.
- Bring a current list of your medications with you, including dosages and
when you take the medications.
- Arrange to have someone drive you home if you are having outpatient surgery
and stay with you until the next day.
- Make sure that you have had any pretests ordered by your surgeon.
- Bathe or shower the evening before your surgery.
- Brush your teeth before surgery, but do not swallow any of the water.
- Do not wear makeup, powder, perfume, lotion, aftershave or nail polish.
- Wear comfortable clothing. You will be changing into a patient gown.
- Do not bring jewelry or other valuables with you.
- Bring a case for glasses or contact lenses. We will provide a container
if you wear dentures or partial plates.
- Contact your physician prior to the day of your surgery if you develop
a sore throat, cold fever or any other illness, or if you eat or drink
anything the day of the surgery. Your procedure may have to be canceled
or rescheduled. If it is, please call Saint John Hospital at 913-680-6467.
Get to Know Our Anesthesiologists