Going Under? Talk About Your Worries

Anesthesia may be safe, but patients are advised to discuss concerns with an anesthesiologist

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Although most people don't have any problems receiving anesthesia, many have worries about going under. An anesthesiologist can allay many of those worries.

For surgery, anesthesia is typically a combination of medications and inhaled gasses. While many know that anesthesia knocks you out, some patients have questions about how it works, its safety and the role of the anesthesiologist.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists is advising patients to have a detailed conversation with their anesthesiologist before any surgery or procedure.

"Anesthesia fears, like those I personally experienced when facing my total hip replacement in 2007, was the reason I created my non-profit Goldilocks Anesthesia Foundation and wrote "Getting Over Going Under: 5 Things You Must Know Before Anesthesia" to help the general public deal with those anesthesia fears and know what they should ask for to optimize their anesthesia experience," said Barry Friedberg, MD.

Dr. Friedberg told dailyRx News what he discusses with patients before they undergo anesthesia.

"My preop conversation entails medications taken and any drug allergies, history of previous anesthesia experience, and postoperative nausea and vomiting," Dr. Friedberg said. He also talks to patients about prolonged emergence (a delaying in "waking up" from anesthesia), their specific anesthesia fears and whether they have a history of hepatitis or asthma.

J.P. Abenstein, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), and colleagues have issued a short list of tips for a safe surgery and anesthesia experience. The advice was given in conjunction with Physician Anesthesiologists Week 2015 (Jan. 11 to 17).

In part, the ASA provided the recommendations in response to a study presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the ASA. In that abstract, Ferdinand D. Iannaccone, DO, from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, and colleagues found that patients often do not understand the anesthesiologist’s role in their care during surgery.

“Patients know that the physician anesthesiologist ‘puts them to sleep’ before surgery but they know little about the medical care and services we provide,” Dr. Abenstein said in a press release.

“We encourage everyone to learn more about the importance of asking questions and sharing information about their lifestyle, health, family history and even their fears about anesthesia and surgery before any procedure.”

Derived from a Greek word meaning “without sensation,” anesthesia can produce a state of unconsciousness, numb the body and prevent movement. Open-heart surgery, brain surgery, organ transplantation and other operations would be impossible without anesthesia.

The tips put together by the ASA are the following:

Know Who Will Be Administering Anesthesia

The anesthesia care team should be led by a physician anesthesiologist. This is a medical doctor specializing in anesthesia, pain and critical care medicine. He or she works with the surgeon and other medical personnel to develop and administer the patient's anesthesia care plan. Physician anesthesiologists ensure safe, high-quality care.

Meet with the Anesthesiologist

During this meeting, provide detailed information about health and lifestyle. Certain medical conditions and lifestyle habits can make a difference, and the anesthesiologist can adjust the care plan accordingly.

Consider these questions: Do you have diabetes, lung problems, kidney disease or allergies? What medications do you take, including over-the-counter and herbal/natural medications? Have you or your family ever had a bad reaction to anesthesia or pain medication, even years ago?

Even things that may seem minor can be important. Do you smoke? Do you snore? Are you sedentary? How far can you walk?

These questions can help the anesthesiologist determine how best to care for the patient.

Voice Any Fears

Don’t be afraid to express worries or fears. It’s natural to fear surgery and anesthesia, and the anesthesiologist can provide information to ease the patient's mind.

Feeling safe is critical to having a positive and safe surgery experience.

Come Prepared and Ask Any Questions

Be sure to ask about the credentials and experience of the care team. Also ask for any and all details about the procedure and the anesthesia.

Discuss Recovery

The anesthesia care team continues to care for the patient after surgery. Ask about how pain will be managed after the procedure and any concerns about recovery, returning home and getting back to a normal routine.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) presented these tips for Physician Anesthesiologists Week 2015, from Jan. 11 to 17.

Review Date: 
January 11, 2015
Last Updated:
January 13, 2015