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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is the condition of being unaware of pain. This can be done by making the person unconscious or making the painful part of the body numb.

What are the different kinds of anesthesia?

The most common type of anesthesia is "general anesthesia" which involves rendering the patient unconscious and unable to feel pain. This type of anesthesia is used for most surgeries.

"Regional anesthesia" involves making the painful part of the body numb by using spinal, epidural or specific nerve blocks. While the patient is conscious, regional anesthesia is usually supplemented with medication to sedate the patient and keep him or her comfortable.

"MAC" or monitored anesthesia care is yet another type of anesthesia usually used for minor procedures. Patients are sedated, but not completely unconscious as in the case of general anesthesia. It is usually supplemented with local anesthesia at the site of surgery by the surgeon.

Who administers anesthesia?

Anesthesia is administered either by an anesthesiologist or a CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) working under the direction of an anesthesiologist. The latter is the most common method of administering anesthesia. The anesthesiologist and the CRNA make up the anesthesia care team.

What is an anesthesiologist or a CRNA?

An anesthesiologist is a physician who has trained for four years in the field of anesthesia after completing medical school. A CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) is a registered nurse who has trained for two and a half to three years in the field of anesthesia. A CRNA works under the direction of an anesthesiologist and together they make up the anesthesia care team.

What does the anesthesiologist do?

Anesthesiologists are specially trained physicians who help determine a patient’s readiness for surgery. They then plan the type of anesthesia and monitoring that each patient will need based on his or her health and specific surgical procedure. During surgery, the anesthesiologist, with the help of the CRNA, monitors the patient's heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen content, temperature, respirations, fluid status, blood count and anesthetic requirements.

How does the anesthesiologist know when I am "asleep"?

By monitoring all of the parameters mentioned in the previous question, the anesthesiologist can determine with a great degree of certainty that the patient is "asleep". Recall, or awakening while under anesthesia, as has been reported by the news media,is extremely rare. A new device called the BIS monitor has been used in special circumstances to help prevent recall, but its effectiveness has been called into question. Recall only happens during general anesthesia and should not be confused with awakening during MAC or regional anesthesia, which is perfectly normal.

How will my pain be managed after surgery?

The most common method of pain control after surgery is IV pain medication either administered by a nurse or through a "PCA" pump.

PCA stands for patient controlled analgesia. Your surgeon will usually order a PCA if you have had major surgery or are spending more than one day in the hospital. YOU will control the dosing of the pain medication by pressing a button attached to the pump. The pump has built in safety controls that keep you from getting too much pain medication.

Epidurals are another way to administer pain medications after surgery. Anyone who has had a baby in the last 30 years has probably had an epidural. Your surgeon will usually discuss this with you prior to surgery and indicate that he thinks this is the best way to control your pain. The anesthesiologist will then determine if you are an appropriate candidate for an epidural, explain the risks and benefits to you, and obtain your consent on the day of surgery. Once this is done and prior to surgery, the epidural is placed with the patient in the sitting position. Through a needle, the anesthesiologist passes a small catheter into a space in the spinal column. The catheter is very small and does not interfere with the patient's ability to lie on his or her back. The pain medicine can now be administered through this catheter.

Why is my throat sore?

As indicated in a previous question, the most common type of anesthesia is general anesthesia which usually requires the placement of a tube into the patient’s throat to protect the airway, breathe for the patient if necessary and administer anesthetic gases. The presence of this tube and the suctioning of the throat done prior to removing the tube, can lead to a sore throat which can last 24-48 hrs. Symptomatic treatment is all that is necessary.

Will I be nauseated after surgery?

Post-op nausea and vomiting (PONV) depends on the person and on the type of surgery. Almost everyone receives some type of preventive medication for PONV. If you have a history of PONV be sure to tell your anesthesia provider. They will treat you with the appropriate drugs, however some patients may still experience some PONV. 

What health plans does Anesthesiology Group Associates accept?

Anesthesiology Group Associates accepts all major health plans including Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Humana, State Employees, Aetna, Medicare, Medicaid, Cigna, Champus, and Workers Comp. 

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