Frequently Asked Questions About Anesthesia
When do I need an anesthesiologist?
Anesthesiologists are specially trained medical professionals who are usually referred by your surgeon or physician for:
Delivery of anesthetic drugs for a procedure or to control pain
Critical care management
Management of airway issues
Vascular access techniques (for example, central vein access)
You should talk to your surgeon, obstetrician, or primary care physician about consulting an anesthesiologist.
When do I speak with my anesthesiologist?
The night before surgery, the anesthesiologist assigned to your case will typically call you at home. You will have an opportunity to ask questions at this time. If the anesthesiologist is unable to reach you by phone, there will be an opportunity prior to entering the operating room the day of the surgery to speak with your anesthesiologist.
The anesthesiologist I talked with on the phone is not the same anesthesiologist at my surgery. Why?
While the vast majority of cases are done by the anesthesiologists who talked to you the night before, occasional scheduling conflicts or last-minute emergency cases may mean another anesthesiologist is assigned to your case.
What are the risks of anesthesia?
The risks of anesthesia are dependent on several factors: the type of procedure being done, the general health of the patient, and the type of anesthetic technique being used.
The four major anesthetic techniques used in our practice are:
General anesthesia (discussed below)
Local anesthesia (discussed below)
You should discuss with your anesthesiologist any questions you have about specific risks.
Is anesthesia safe?
There are risks and benefits to every anesthetic technique. Advancements in anesthesia knowledge, monitoring equipment, and medication make the practice of anesthesia much safer today than in the past. Vituity Anesthesiology has one of the best safety records in the Bay Area as rated by a major insurer.
What is general anesthesia?
General anesthesia is commonly referred to as being "put asleep" and is a common anesthetic technique in practice today. The basic principle of general anesthesia is that anesthetic medications are used to interfere with the brain's ability to "sense" or "feel" stimulation from surgery or a procedure. Common side effects of general anesthesia include postoperative sedation or "sleepiness," nausea, mouth/throat soreness, and eye irritation.
What is regional anesthesia?
Please see our regional anesthesia section.
What is sedation (MAC) anesthesia?
Please see our sedation anesthesia section.
What is local anesthesia?
Local anesthesia is the practice of using numbing medication at the site of the procedure by the surgeon. This practice does not involve the consultation of an anesthesiologist. Local anesthesia is usually reserved for relatively minor procedures. Please talk to your surgeon if you have further questions.
Does the anesthesiologist ever leave me during surgery?
No. Vituity anesthesiologists never leave you alone during surgery or a procedure requiring anesthesia. If an anesthesiologist needs to leave the procedure for any reason, another anesthesiologist will take their place.
Can I eat and drink the day of surgery?
In general, it is best not to have anything to eat or drink after midnight the day prior to surgery. Your anesthesiologist will give you more detailed instructions for your specific case.
Why can't I eat or drink before surgery?
Anesthesia decreases the patient's ability to protect their lungs from food or liquids entering. Patients can develop severe lung complications from food and liquids entering their lungs under anesthesia and during surgery.
What medications do I take the night before surgery?
During your phone call with your anesthesiologist, you will be instructed which medications to take. A nurse or someone from the surgeon's office sometimes may also contact you to go over your medication list. You may take any medications instructed by your anesthesiologist for the day of surgery with a small sip of water.
What if I have a problem at home after surgery?
If you have a medical emergency, please contact 911 right away. For other medical problems and questions related to anesthesia such as questions on a nerve block catheter please contact the operating room front desk.
When can I drive?
At discharge, you will receive instructions regarding resuming normal activities. Every patient differs with respect to the operation performed, anesthesia received, and pain medications received, so patients will receive individualized instructions. No patient who receives sedative medicines should expect to drive on the day of the procedure.
Where do I go after surgery, and can I have visitors?
Surgical patients immediately go to the recovery room after their procedure, where they are closely monitored by specially trained nursing staff. Usually visitors are prohibited from the recovery room due to medical and privacy concerns. However, exceptions are permitted, particularly for pediatric patients or if communication issues exist. Please talk your surgical nurse about specific questions.
What are my options for pain control after surgery?
Surgical patients going home (outpatients) are typically discharged with pain pills and prescriptions from their surgeon. Surgical patients being admitted to the hospital (inpatients) additionally will have intravenous pain medications and even regional techniques such as epidural anesthesia available to them. Please discuss your pain control regimen with your surgeon and anesthesiologist.