What to expect from your Anesthesia Care Team:

An Anesthesia Care Team, led by physician anesthesiologists will guide you throughout your entire surgical experience, including helping you prepare, during the procedure and after it is over as you recover.

Before surgery — In the days or weeks before your surgery, your physician anesthesiologist will be sure you are fit for surgery and prepare you for the procedure by asking detailed questions about your health, examining you, reviewing tests, and answering your questions about surgery and anesthesia. Be sure to let your anesthesia care team know about any medical problems you have, such as heart disease, diabetes or asthma, what medications you are taking (prescription, over-the-counter and herbal supplements) and whether you’ve had problems or concerns while having anesthesia in the past. Use this time to ask questions. Understanding your care will make you feel more comfortable and confident as you prepare for surgery. Your Anesthesia Care Team will create an anesthesia plan specifically developed for you to ensure a safe and successful procedure.

During surgery — The physician anesthesiologist manages your pain control and closely monitors your anesthesia and vital body functions during the procedure, working alone or with an Anesthesia Care Team. Your physician anesthesiologist will manage medical problems if they occur during surgery, as well as any chronic conditions you have such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart problems.

After surgery — In the recovery room, the physician anesthesiologist supervises the nurse and others who care for you and monitor your recovery – including your breathing, circulation, consciousness and level of oxygen – and is immediately available if there are questions or concerns. The physician anesthesiologist typically is the person to decide when you are recovered from the effects of anesthesia and ready to go home or be moved to a regular room in the hospital or the intensive care unit. The physician anesthesiologist also creates a plan for your recovery and may be involved in pain management after you go home.

What Types of Anesthesia Are Available?

The three types of anesthesia used during surgery are:

Monitored anesthesia care or (MAC) — With MAC anesthesia, IV sedatives and pain medicines are administered by your anesthesia provider, and used in combination with a local anesthetic injected by your surgeon at the operative site. The level of sedation may range from minimal, making you drowsy but able to talk, to deep, meaning you probably won’t remember much of the procedure. MAC anesthesia often is used for minor procedures such as colonoscopies or cataract surgery.

Regional anesthesia — Local anesthetics may be administered by your anesthesia provider to numb larger parts of the body, such as the area below the waist (with spinal or epidural anesthesia), or an arm, hand or leg (with other regional anesthetic techniques). You may be sedated during the procedure, as required for your comfort, but unable to feel pain in the numbed area. This type of anesthesia is often used for childbirth and for surgeries of the arm, leg or abdomen.

General anesthesia — General anesthesia is administered by your anesthesia provider, and renders you unconscious throughout the surgical procedure. It may be administered through an IV, or inhaled through a breathing device, or a combination of both. General anesthesia is more likely, but not always, the anesthetic of choice for major surgical procedures.

The type of anesthesia you receive will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of procedure you are having, your health and in some cases, your preference.

Are there any side effects from anesthesia?

If you have general anesthesia, you will likely feel a little groggy or confused for a short time after waking up.

Other side effects can include:
Feeling sick to your stomach (nausea) and throwing up (vomiting) – Your Anesthesia Care Team can give you medicines for this problem. Please mention any history of nausea with anesthesia to your anesthesia provider. A sore throat – This can happen if you had a breathing tube. It usually gets better soon after surgery, rarely lasting longer than 24 hours.

People who have certain medical conditions or certain types of surgery can have trouble breathing after surgery and general anesthesia. People who have this problem sometimes need to keep the breathing tube and stay connected to the machine that helps with breathing for a while after surgery. They stay sedated for the entire time that the breathing tube is in place. Before surgery, your anesthesiologist will explain whether you are likely to have breathing problems.

Will I wake up during my surgery?

If you’re having a major surgery, such as a knee replacement or back surgery, you most likely will receive general anesthesia and be unconscious during the procedure. Very rarely, patients who have general anesthesia become aware or conscious during the procedure when the intention was for the patient to be unconscious. This is called anesthesia awareness, and it happens in only one or two out of every 1,000 medical cases involving general anesthesia in adults. Although it can be very unsettling, patients who experience awareness generally do not feel pain.

Anesthesia awareness is not the same thing as remembering some activities surrounding your procedure, such as just before the anesthesia starts working, or when its effects begin wearing off after the surgery. These are expected and normal. You might even dream during surgery, and only think you have experienced awareness.

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