The Anesthesia Care Team
If you’re planning to have surgery, you probably know that your surgeon is not the only person who will be taking care of you. An entire team of physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals will be working together to make sure your surgery and recovery are safe and successful.
One of the key members of that medical team is the anesthesiologist, a medical doctor who specializes in anesthesia, pain management, and critical care medicine. This physician often leads the Anesthesia Care Team, which might include nurse anesthetists, anesthesiologist assistants, and anesthesiology resident physicians who will guide you throughout your entire surgical experience — before, during, and after the procedure.
What happens with the Anesthesia Care Team before surgery?
Sometime before your surgery, especially if you are having general anesthesia that causes you to lose consciousness, you will meet with your anesthesiologist to discuss your anesthesia care. You will be asked about your medical history, health habits, and lifestyle, so that the anesthesiologist can work with other members of the Anesthesia Care Team to develop an anesthesia plan that’s safe and effective for you. For example, you may have certain medical conditions or take certain medications that will affect how you react to the anesthesia and the surgery. The Anesthesia Care Team will use this information as it determines the right type and dosage of anesthesia, and whether certain side effects or complications may be more likely.
The day of your surgery, the anesthesiologist and other members of the Anesthesia Care Team will meet with you to review your medical information and tell you what to expect from your surgery and recovery. After they’ve answered your questions and you’ve answered theirs, you may be given medication to relax. The anesthesiologist will then administer your anesthesia for the surgery.
What does the Anesthesia Care Team do during surgery?
While your surgeon is performing your procedure, your Anesthesia Care Team will be taking care of you. You will be monitored carefully throughout the surgery to make sure your breathing, heart rate, and other systems are normal and steady. While a nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist assistant or resident may be involved, an anesthesiologist supervises the monitoring and is always readily available in case you experience any complications while under anesthesia.
What happens after surgery?
After your surgery, the anesthesiologist will reverse the anesthesia medications and wake you up. You may experience some side effects from the anesthesia, such as nausea, chills, or vomiting, and the Anesthesia Care Team will assess how you feel and give you medications to make you feel better. You also will be asked to describe your pain. In addition to keeping you safe and comfortable during surgery, anesthesiologists are specialists in controlling all types of pain, including postsurgical pain. The Anesthesia Care Team will develop a pain management plan to help you feel comfortable as you recover in the hospital and after you return home.
What else does the Anesthesia Care Team do?
The Anesthesia Care Team also takes care of patients who are not having major surgery that requires general anesthesia. For example, if you’re having a baby, the team will meet with you and the doctor who will be delivering the baby to discuss what kind of pain management you want during labor and delivery. Anesthesiologists are also pain medicine specialists who treat patients suffering from chronic pain, such as headaches or back pain. Some anesthesiologists work with nurses and other medical professionals who specialize in this aspect of anesthesia care.