Surgical Services

FAQs - Anesthesia

1. When will I talk with an anesthesiologist?

You will speak with an anesthesiologist the morning of your surgery. If your doctor requests an anesthesia consultation at the time of pre-admission testing, we will make special arrangements for that. If you want to speak with an anesthesiologist before the day of your surgery, arrangements can be made to speak with him/her by phone.

2. What kind of anesthesia will I have?

The choice of anesthesia is usually a joint decision, made primarily by the anesthesiologist but influenced by the surgeon's needs and the patient's preference. Other factors that influence choice include the type and location of the procedure, the projected length of your surgery, and your physical condition.

3. What is an anesthesiologist? What is a CRNA? What is an anesthesiologist assistant?

Today's anesthesiologists are physicians who complete four years of college, four years of medical school, and four more years of anesthesiology residency. They apply their knowledge of medicine to ensure your comfort during surgery and make informed medical judgments to protect you while in the operating room. These include treating and regulating changes in your critical life functions - breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure - as they are affected by the surgery being performed.

A CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) is a registered nurse who has completed a Master's Degree program in nursing and is trained to give anesthesia under the supervision of a physician.

An anesthesiologist assistant is an allied health professional who has completed a two-year Master’s Degree of extensive training in the delivery of anesthesia under the supervision of an anesthesiologist.

At Lake Health, your care will be directed by an anesthesiologist with the assistance of either a CRNA or an anesthesiologist assistant.

4. I'm scheduled for "MAC" anesthesia. What does that mean?

"MAC" stands for "Monitored Anesthesia Care." It is often used for surgery that is short or does not go deep into the body. Under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, a CRNA or anesthesiologist assistant will administer sedatives through an IV to put you into a "twilight" sleep. Local anesthetics will be given at the surgical site to numb it. "MAC" anesthesia allows for a very quick recovery from anesthesia with few side effects.

5. I have had nausea and vomiting following my previous anesthetics. Can this be avoided?

Medications can be given before, during, and after to help prevent nausea. These medications make it much more unlikely that you will feel nauseated after anesthesia. Make sure you inform your anesthesiologist if you have had nausea and vomiting with past surgeries.

6. Someone I know had a simple surgical procedure and ended up on a breathing machine. Could this happen to me?

It is very, very rare that a patient will unexpectedly require a breathing tube after surgery. For surgery, a breathing tube is often inserted after a patient is fully anesthetized, but in almost every case it is removed at the end of surgery.

Patients with severe lung diseases or those undergoing complex operations (i.e. heart surgery) will often require a breathing tube after surgery. For these patients, the anesthesiologist will discuss with you the plan for your post-operative recovery.

7. Why can't I have anything to eat or drink the day of surgery?

If you eat or drink the day of surgery, food could be regurgitated from your stomach and aspirated into your lungs. This could cause a serious, sometimes deadly, pneumonia.

8. I have seen and read news stories about people being awake during surgical procedures and not being able to tell anyone. Could this happen to me?

Awareness under anesthesia is very rare. Patients who dream during surgery or have some perception of their surroundings before or after surgery might think they have experienced awareness. Actual episodes of awareness are often fleeting, usually do not involve the sensation of pain, and are not traumatic to the patient.

Though the possibility of awareness is remote, it can occur during certain high-risk trauma or cardiac surgery in which the patient's condition might not allow for a deep anesthetic to be given safely. In those instances, the anesthesia professional will weigh the potential for awareness against the need to guard the patient's life or safety. The same is true during an emergency cesarean section when a deep anesthetic is not best for the mother or child.

Your anesthesiologist will be happy to discuss with you any concerns you might have about your anesthesia, including the remote possibility of awareness.

9. Is general anesthesia safe?

Yes. Although all operations and all anesthetics have some small risks, they are dependent upon many factors, including the type of surgery and the medical condition of the patient. Fortunately, adverse events are very rare.

The specific risks of anesthesia vary with the particular procedure and the condition of the patient. You should ask your anesthesiologist about the particular risks that might be associated with your anesthesia.

10. What is regional anesthesia?

Regional anesthesia is often used for surgery on the arms, legs, or abdomen, or during childbirth. Part of your body is numbed by injecting anesthetic near your spine or near nerves in your arms, neck, or legs. The region will begin to feel numb in a few minutes. You might also be given sedatives through your IV to help you relax and sleep through surgery. Regional anesthesia is often used to provide pain relief after surgery on the arms or legs.

11. What is spinal anesthesia and how does it differ from an epidural?

With spinal anesthesia, anesthetic is injected into the spinal fluid that surrounds the spinal cord, blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This prevents you from feeling pain. Your body is numb from about the waist down. You can choose to sleep through surgery or remain awake. Spinal anesthesia is an excellent choice for major orthopedic procedures of the knee and hip.

With epidural anesthesia, anesthetic is injected into the epidural space, which is just next to the spinal fluid. The anesthetic can be given through a needle or through a small catheter inserted into the epidural space. The catheter can be left in place, so that you can also receive pain relief after surgery. Epidural anesthesia is an excellent choice for major abdominal and chest surgery. Women who are delivering their babies use epidural anesthesia extensively.