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Anesthetist/Anesthesiologist

Overview

When preparing for surgery, many patients think of the anesthesiologist as the "physician behind the mask" who sends them into sleep before the procedure and wakes them when it's over. What they may not realize is how much the anesthesiologist does between those two points.

Anesthesiologists serve a central role in the operating room, making decisions to protect and regulate your critical life functions. They typically are the first to diagnose and treat any medical problems that may arise during surgery or the recovery period.

Anesthesiologists are highly skilled medical doctors (M.D. or D.O.) who specialize in the field of anesthesiology. Anesthesiologists are primarily responsible for the safety and well-being of patients before, during and after surgery. This may include:

  • Placing the patient in the state of controlled unconsciousness called "general anesthesia"
  • Providing “regional anesthetics,” in which only a portion of the body is made numb
  • Administering sedation when indicated for the relief of pain or anxiety

All of these anesthetics provide continuous pain relief and sustain patients' critical life functions as they are affected throughout surgical, obstetrical or other medical procedures.

The role of the anesthesiologist extends beyond the operating room. The anesthesiologist is responsible for the preoperative assessment of the patient, an evaluation process that carefully considers both the patient’s current state of health and the planned surgical procedure. This evaluation allows anesthesiologists to make judgments about the safest anesthesia plan for each individual patient. The anesthesiologist also is responsible for the well-being of the patient postoperatively, while the patient emerges from the effects of anesthesia. They often are involved in the management of acute postoperative pain, as well as chronic and cancer pain; cardiac and respiratory resuscitation; blood transfusion therapies; and respiratory therapy.

Source: MedlinePlus and American Society of Anesthesiologists

Note: This definition was prepared to help consumers find reliable health resources on the web. This site is not responsible for the information on other sites. The information here — and on all websites — is not intended to be a substitute for care given to you by a health professional.

Recommended Reading

American Board of Anesthesiology
Certifying board for this specialty, with a section for the public on board certification, along with questions to ask your anesthesiologist.

American Society of Anesthesiologists
Professional organization for this specialty.

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