Frequently Asked Questions
In a general sense, one performs anesthesia by rendering a patient insensible to pain. However, the practice of anesthesia is much more than this. Anesthesia providers not only provide insensibility to pain during surgical, therapeutic, and diagnostic procedures; they also monitor your well being and maintain important body functions during your operation. In other words, while you are incapable of protecting yourself, anesthesia providers will do this for you. In addition, some Anesthesiologists diagnose and treat patients with chronic and acute pain disorders.
Anesthesiologists may medically direct Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) who can perform anesthesia following 27 months of training after receiving their BSN. Anesthesia Services of Birmingham, P.C physicians adhere to the American Society of Anesthesiologists' (ASA) (www.asahq.org) guidelines for the Anesthesia Care Team. Anesthesia Services of Birmingham, P.C. employs 110 highly trained CRNAs who provide excellent patient care.
There are basic types of care which can be administered by your anesthesia provider. Depending on what surgical procedure is planned, you may be offered (1) general anesthesia, (2) regional anesthesia, (3) monitored anesthesia care (sedation and monitoring). Each of these types involve the possibility of complications, and your Anesthesiologist has the responsibility of selecting the technique which will offer the greatest safety and comfort. He or she will take into consideration a variety of factors, including the nature of operation to be performed, your medical and psychological condition, the desires of the Surgeon, recommendations of other physicians involved in your care, as well as your own preferences.
This is the most common technique used in the operating room. Medicines are used which cause the patient to be unconscious. Depending on your individual situation, the role of the anesthesia provider may include assisting you with breathing, regulating your blood pressure, and closely watching the heartbeat so that he or she can correct irregularities if necessary. When the surgery is complete, he or she will take you to the recovery room to assist in your wake-up process. When he or she is satisfied that your recovery is proceeding well, he or she will ask the recovery room nurses to care for you as you continue the recovery process.
This technique utilizes a nerve block with a local anesthetic to make a part of the body numb. Anesthesiologists commonly combine this technique with sedation so you can feel relaxed and can even sleep through the procedure. The most common types of regional anesthesia include arm blocks, spinal anesthesia, and epidural anesthesia. An arm block can be used for many operations on the hand, forearm, and shoulder. Spinal and epidural anesthesia can be used for many operations below the chest. If regional anesthesia or sedation is used but is found to be unsatisfactory, your Anesthesiologist and CRNA may induce general anesthesia, if necessary, to maintain your safety and comfort.
Monitored Anesthesia Care
This method usually involves the use of tranquilizers and narcotics to help you have a safe and comfortable visit to the operating room. These medicines may be used together with local anesthesia injected by the Surgeon or with regional anesthesia administered by the Anesthesiologist. Sometimes, "sedation" may resemble a general anesthetic. A patient may appear to be asleep and not remember operative events.
Your Anesthesiologist has the knowledge and experience to recommend the technique best-suited to your particular situation. He or she will help you select the type of anesthesia to achieve the highest level of safety and comfort for your surgical procedure.
Most drugs that render you insensible to pain also decrease your protective reflexes. Some of these reflexes prevent the very acidic stomach contents from entering your lungs. When stomach contents get into the lungs, it is called aspiration and can result in serious lung injury or death. We will ask you not to eat or drink anything for a period prior to surgery so you will have minimal stomach contents at the time of surgery.
You should receive instruction concerning this issue during the preoperative evaluation process. If you have NOT received instruction and you are an adult, you may use the guideline of taking nothing solid to eat after midnight (this includes chewing gum, mints, smokeless tobacco, etc.) the night before your surgery and only clear liquids until six (6) hours prior to surgery. Clear liquids include soft drinks, tea, black coffee, and water. Juices and dairy products should be avoided.
This is something you should definitely ask during the preoperative evaluation process. Your Surgeon, Anesthesiologist, CRNA or preoperative nurse can answer this question. It is very hard to make generalizations about this issue, as some drugs can interfere with a safe anesthetic while the termination of others before surgery can be hazardous.
Most people who receive an anesthetic experience sleepiness for about 24 hours following their surgery. All of the health facilities that Anesthesia Services of Birmingham, P.C. serve require the patient have a friend or family member drive them home after surgery. In addition, you should not make any major decisions or operate a vehicle within the first 24 hours of your anesthetic. The usual side effects following anesthesia are nausea, vomiting and a sore throat. Other issues that concern your particular medical condition will be explained to you, if necessary.
If you or a blood relative has had a problem related to anesthesia or surgery, please let your Anesthesiologist and CRNA know. A thorough medical history and physical exam is, of course, the most important information your Anesthesiologist and CRNA can receive. They will need to know if you have significant medical problems in order to suggest the safest possible anesthetic management. Please be sure to carefully fill in the preoperative forms you receive and review your medical problems with your Anesthesiologist during your preoperative interview.
In the majority of cases, the patient will pay for his or her anesthetic with a combination of their health insurance and a co-pay. Anesthesia Services of Birmingham, P.C. is an independent physician group and is not employed by the hospital. You should contact your health insurance provider for further information.
In some situations the Anesthesiologist and CRNA may use special techniques to measure blood pressure, administer intravenous fluids or to otherwise care for you. A nurse should be called when a patient is ready to stand-up for the first time after receiving anesthesia. A patient must avoid driving, cooking, power tools, important decisions, and all activities requiring full alertness for a minimum of 24 hours following anesthesia or sedation. Anesthesia involves some risks but the use of anesthetics for the relief and protection from pain during surgical procedures is an integral part of the procedure. Sometimes, the anesthetic plan may have to be changed, possibly without immediate explanation to the patient. You will have the opportunity to ask questions about your condition, alternative forms of anesthesia, and the risks involved.