What is anesthesiology?

Anesthesiology is the practice of medicine dedicated to:

  • The comprehensive care of patients before, during, and after surgery and childbirth;
  • Critical care medicine, and;
  • The treatment of acute and chronic pain.

Advancements in medicine have made the practice of anesthesia very safe; a healthy person’s risk of death related to anesthesia is 1 in 200,000.

Several types of anesthesia are available, including general anesthesia, sedation anesthesia, and regional anesthesia. The type of anesthesia that is chosen is based on the patient’s medical history, the planned operation or procedure, and the patient’s preferences.

What does an anesthesiologist do?

A physician anesthesiologist is responsible for the patient’s well-being before, during, and after surgery. An anesthesiologist will do the following:

  • Determine if it is safe to proceed with the anesthetic and surgery or procedure.
  • Devise an anesthetic plan with the patient. This is typically general anesthesia, sedation anesthesia, or regional anesthesia such as a spinal, epidural, or regional nerve block (usually accompanied by intravenous sedation).
  • Ensure unconsciousness with general anesthesia, or the appropriate level of sedation with sedation anesthesia.
  • Monitor and maintain normal vital signs, including respirations (breaths), pulse, blood pressure, and temperature.
  • Monitor and maintain normal levels of oxygen in the bloodstream and carbon dioxide gas in the lungs.
  • Identify and treat any problem or emergency that may occur before, during, and after the procedure, such as an unexpected or allergic reaction to a medication, bleeding, or an unexpected change in vital signs.
  • Minimize the stress response to the operation or procedure to allow the patient to make the best recovery.
  • Control pain after surgery.
  • Provide ongoing care after the surgery in the anesthesia care unit or intensive care unit.

The anesthesiologist may work with a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), resident physician, or a student nurse anesthetist. All of these caregivers will be supervised by the anesthesiologist, who retains overall responsibility for the patient’s safety.