What you should know before surgery
Before you schedule your next surgery, ask the hospital the following questions to help ensure a successful procedure:
* How long does the surgical procedure take?
* What can be expected for recovery?
* Who are all the members of the surgical team? Will a physician anesthesiologist be present?
* What should be done to prepare for surgery? (i.e. eating restrictions)
* What pain medications will be administered before, during and after surgery?
* Who is going to care for me immediately after surgery?
* Who will communicate the status of surgery with the patient’s loved one or caregiver?
Who is providing your medical care?
Regardless of the type of surgery you will undergo, you’ll likely require anesthesia or sedation. It is important for you to know who is administering your anesthesia. As the leader of the Anesthesia Care Team, your physician anesthesiologist will care for you before, during and after surgery. You, like the majority of patients, may be unaware that anesthesiologists are in fact medical doctors.
Physician anesthesiologists have 12,000 hours to 16,000 hours of clinical training and 12-plus years of extensive medical education which covers the entire human body and all of its systems, including evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and management of a full range of medical conditions and needs. Physician anesthesiologists are able to intervene should complications arise in a routine surgical procedure or in an emergency.
Anesthesia is safer than ever because of the work and research of physician anesthesiologists. However, each patient comes with a unique set of circumstances and health risks that require the medical training of a physician anesthesiologist.
Take for example, the story of a woman who was administered a routine epidural during childbirth. Without warning, the patient experienced cardiac arrest due to an amniotic embolism. If it was not for the split-second diagnosis and action of Patrick Allaire, M.D. (Ames, Iowa), who was able to restart the patient’s heart and ensure a successful Cesarean section, the outcome would have been grave. Despite an 85 percent fatality rate during such procedures, both the mother and her child survived.
What is the role of my physician anesthesiologist?
ASA President-Elect Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D. notes that physician anesthesiologists play three key roles before, during and after any surgery. Here’s what you can expect as a patient who will be undergoing surgery:
1. Before surgery, physician anesthesiologists draw on their advanced education and training to diagnose illnesses, ensure you are in optimal shape for surgery and help fine-tune surgical plans.
2. During surgery, physician anesthesiologists manage any medical conditions you have, as well as anything that arises during the procedure. They help ensure you remain comfortable and manage pain.
3. After surgery, physician anesthesiologists address any complications from your medical condition or from the surgical procedure itself, helping you to heal properly.
Many people are surprised to learn physician anesthesiologists also have active roles outside of the operating room. Dr. Fitch explains, “After some surgeries, patients may have issues that require close care. Some physician anesthesiologists specialize in critical care medicine to take care of those patients. Likewise in terms of pain medicine, physician anesthesiologists are able to provide comprehensive pain medicine care, either acutely right after a surgery or procedure, or on an outpatient basis for chronic medical conditions.”
When seconds count, when a life hangs in the balance, when medical emergencies or other complications occur, you and your family members need to know that there is a physician anesthesiologist responsible for your care. For more information on patient-centered, physician-led anesthesia care, please visit www.asahq.org/WhenSecondsCount.