Meet Your Anesthesiologist

Before your surgery, you will meet an important physician specialist-your anesthesiologist. A vital member of the surgical team, your anesthesiologist has the critical responsibility for your welfare when you undergo anesthesia. The anesthesiologist is your advocate in the operating room.

Who are anesthesiologists?

Anesthesiologists are physicians who complete a four-year college program, four years of graduate doctoral training and four more years of anesthesiology residency. Many have performed an additional 1-2 years of sub-specialty training. They apply their knowledge of medicine to fulfill their role in the operating room, which is not only to ensure your comfort during surgery, but also to make informed medical judgments to protect you. These include treating and regulating changes in your critical life functions such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure-as they are affected by the surgery being performed. These medical specialists are the doctors who can immediately diagnose and treat any medical problems that might arise during your, preoperative evaluation, surgery, recovery period, critical care, in hospital care, or post surgical convalescence.

The role of an anesthesiologist extends beyond the operating room and recovery room. They are providers of care at surgery centers, medical offices and pain management centers.

May I choose my anesthesiologist for my surgery?

You can usually have a choice as to who your anesthesiologist will be. Your primary care physician, your surgeon, or your Chief of the department of Anesthesiology may refer you to an anesthesiologist. Alternatively, you may select one based on a personal recommendation or your own previous experience. However, you must make that choice known in advance so that arrangements may be made to honor your request. Since your anesthesiologist is responsible for your comfort, safety and medical care during perioperative period of care, it is important that you meet prior to coming to the operating room.

Why is there a preoperative interview?

Surgical anesthesia and surgery affect your entire system, so it is important for your anesthesiologist to know as much about you as possible. During a preoperative visit, an anesthesiologist will carefully evaluate you and your medical history and will inquire about your recent medications. In addition, they will inform you about the procedures\ associated with your surgery, discuss the anesthetic choices, their risks and benefits, order appropriate laboratory tests and prescribe medication for you, if needed, before your operation. If you have not met your anesthesiologist during a preoperative interview, you will meet immediately before your surgery. At this time, your anesthesiologist will review your entire medical chart for a clear understanding of your needs and medical condition.

What are the types of anesthesia?

There are four main categories of anesthesia: general, regional, sedation and local. With general anesthesia, you are unconscious and have no awareness of the surgical procedure or other sensations.
If you have regional anesthesia, your anesthesiologist injects medication near a cluster of nerves to numb only the area of your body that requires surgery. You may remain awake or you may be given a sedative. For some surgical procedures, a local anesthetic may be injects into the skin and tissues to numb a specific location. Your anesthesiologists, in consultation with your surgeon, will determine the best type of anesthesia for you, taking your desires into consideration whenever possible.
With Sedation you will be relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. Depending on the medications used, you may be awake or aware during the procedure. Often people have no memory of the procedure.
These options will be discussed during your preoperative interview with the anesthesiologist. Any concerns or wishes you have will be discussed as well.

During the surgery, what does my Anesthesiologist do?

Your anesthesiologist is personally responsible for your medical care, comfort, and well being before, during and after your surgical procedure. In the operating room, the anesthesiologist will provide your anesthesia and manage vital functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, heart rhythm, body temperature and breathing. The Anesthesiologist also is responsible for fluid and blood replacement, when necessary. He or she will regulate the anesthesia so that you will be comfortable until your anesthetic care is completed after surgery.

Frequently, people requiring surgery may have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, arthritis or heart problems. Because of your preoperative evaluation, your anesthesiologist will be alert to these conditions and well prepared to treat them during your surgery and immediately afterward. Your continued medical management during surgery is necessary to help you have a speedy recovery. As doctors, anesthesiologists are uniquely qualified to treat not only sudden medical problems related to surgery itself, but also your chronic conditions that may need special attention during your procedure. Anesthesia training is built on a solid foundation of internal medicine and critical care making Anesthesiologists uniquely qualified to manage your medical needs.

After surgery, what can I expect?

Your anesthesiologist continues to be responsible for your care in the recovery room, often called the post-anesthesia care unit. Here, the anesthesiologist directs specially trained staff members who monitor your condition and vital signs as the effects of the anesthesia wear off. Your anesthesiologist will determine when you are able to leave the recovery room.

Frequently, an anesthesiologist may be responsible for your critical care, if required, and for your care in the hospital as a hospitalist or a pain management specialist.

Will I receive a separate bill from the anesthesiologist?

Your anesthesiologist is a physician specialist like your surgeon or internist, and you probably will receive a bill for your anesthesiologist’s professional service as you would from your other physicians. If you have any financial concerns, your anesthesiologist or an office staff member will answer your questions. You will note that your hospital charges separately for the medications and equipment used.

Many people are apprehensive about surgery or anesthesia. If you are well informed and know what to expect, you will be better prepared and more relaxed. Talk with your anesthesiologist. Ask questions. Discuss any concerns your might have about your planned anesthetic care.
Your anesthesiologist is not only your advocate but also the physician uniquely qualified and experienced to make your surgery and recovery as safe and comfortable as possible.