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Anesthesia FAQs

Get answers to our most frequently asked questions

What is an anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologists are physicians who have specialized training that allows them to provide pain control, pain relief and care for the general well-being of the patient in the operating room. They are able to regulate changes in breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and other vital signs that are important to your condition while undergoing surgery. The anesthesiologist acts as the advocate for the patient when the patient is under anesthesia. Anesthesiologists have completed college, 4 years of  medical school, a medical or surgical internship and 3 years of anesthesiology residency.

What is a certified registered nurse anesthetist?

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice nurse who has completed a Masters or Doctorate degree with a specialized focus in anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists stay with their patients for the entire procedure, providing hands-on care while constantly monitoring every important body function and individually modifying the anesthetic to ensure maximum safety and comfort. CRNAs work in collaboration with anesthesiologists, surgeons, and medical professionals to deliver safe, top quality anesthesia for all types of surgical, medical and obstetrical procedures. Nurse Anesthetists must be certified by the National Board of CRNAs.

Are there different kinds of anesthesia?

There are four main types of anesthesia. They are:

Local anesthesia
This type of anesthesia causes you to lose sensation in a very specific area. The anesthetic drug is usually injected into an incision area to numb the tissue around a specific area of your body that requires only minor surgery. Occasionally, an anesthesia provider may be present to administer a mild sedative.

Regional anesthesia
This kind of anesthesia gets it name because a "region" of the body is anesthetized without making you unconscious. Regional anesthesia can be used to block very specific areas, such as an arm, a leg, or a foot. You will not see or feel the actual surgery take place, because intravenous sedation is usually administered.

General anesthesia
This type of anesthesia will render you unconscious. You will be unaware of what is happening, immobile, pain-free, and free from any memory of the period of time in which you are anesthetized. The length and level of anesthesia is calculated and constantly adjusted during the procedure. When the procedure is complete, the anesthesiologist will reverse the process and you will regain consciousness in the recovery room.

Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC)
This is the intravenous administration of mild sedatives to help a patient relax and relieve anxiety during minor procedures that do not require general anesthesia. These procedures, such as biopsies and colonoscopies, typically require the injection of a local anesthetic to numb the surgical site.

What about eating or drinking before surgery?

It is important that you follow the instructions you are given in regards to eating and drinking before surgery. When given anesthesia, you lose the ability to protect your lungs from inhaling solids or liquids from your stomach. They could come up into your mouth and then be inhaled into your lungs. This could cause serious, life-threatening damage to your lungs.

Should I take my daily medication?

It is important to discuss this with your anesthesiologist because some drugs should be taken and others should not. Do not interrupt your medications unless your anesthesiologist or surgeon recommends it. 

What are the risks of anesthesia?

Although all types of anesthesia involve some risk, major side effects and complications from anesthesia are uncommon. Your specific risks depend on your health, your age, the type of anesthesia used and your response to anesthesia. You should ask your anesthesiologist about any risks that may be associated with your anesthesia.

How is the epidural block performed for labor and delivery?

During an epidural block, a small needle is placed in the epidural space just outside the spinal sac in your lower back while you are either sitting up or lying on your side. A light epidural dose doesn't fully numb you below the waist, making it possible for you to push during contractions. Epidural anesthesia is considered the most effective and easily adjustable type of pain relief for childbirth.

Will I have a sore throat after surgery?

The insertion of the endotracheal tube can result in a sore throat after the surgery. Sometimes a sore throat will occur even without intubation. This is usually not a major problem, but some people find it annoying. Throat lozenges can alleviate the symptoms. A persistent or severe sore throat should be reported to your anesthesiologists or your surgeon.