Carolinas HealthCare System

About Anesthesia

Board-certified anesthesiologists and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are available to provide a full range of anesthesia services in the operating room, Endoscopy Lab, Radiology, and the Cath Lab.

From a minor procedure with a shot to numb the area to a more serious surgery in which you will be "asleep," knowing the basics about anesthesia may help answer your questions and ease some concerns.

What Is Anesthesia?

Basically, anesthesia is the use of medicine to prevent the feeling of pain or another sensation during surgery or other procedures that might be painful. Administered as an injection or through inhaled gases or vapors, different types of anesthesia affect the nervous system in various ways by blocking nerve impulses and, therefore, pain.

In addition to administering anesthesia medications before the surgery, the anesthesiologist will monitor your body functions such as breathing, heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels during surgery. The anesthesiologist continues to help you manage any pain after your procedure and keep you comfortable before, during and after surgery.

What Are the Common Side Effects?

You will most likely feel disoriented, groggy, and a little confused when waking up after surgery. Some other common side effects, which should go away fairly quickly, include:

  • Nausea or vomiting, which can usually be alleviated with anti-nausea medication
  • Chills
  • Shakiness
  • Sore throat (if a tube was used to administer the anesthesia or help with breathing)

What Are the Risks?

Anesthesia today is very safe. In very rare cases, anesthesia can cause complications (such as strange heart rhythms, breathing problems, allergic reactions to medications, and even death). However, rare complications usually involve patients with other medical problems. The risks depend on the kind of procedure, the condition of the patient, and the type of anesthesia used. Be sure to talk to your doctor, surgeon, and/or anesthesiologist about any concerns.

Most complications can usually be prevented by simply providing the anesthesiologist with complete information before the surgery about things like:

  • Your current and past health (including diseases or conditions such as recent or current colds, or other issues such as snoring or depression)
  • Any medications (prescription and over-the-counter), supplements, or herbal remedies you are taking
  • Any allergies (especially to foods, medications, or latex) you may have
  • Whether you smoke, drink alcohol, or take any recreational drugs
  • Any previous reactions you or any family member has had to anesthesia

To ensure your safety during the surgery or procedure, it's extremely important to answer all of the anesthesiologist's questions as honestly and thoroughly as possible. Things that may seem harmless could interact with or affect the anesthesia and cause you to react to it.

It's also important that you follow the doctor's recommendations about what not to do before the surgery. You probably won't be able to eat or drink (usually nothing after midnight the day before) and may need to stop taking herbal supplements for a certain period of time before surgery.

You can rest assured that the safety of anesthetic procedures has improved a lot in the past 25 years, thanks to advances in technology and the extensive training anesthesiologists receive. The more informed, calm, and reassured you are about the surgery and the safety of anesthesia, the easier the experience will probably be.

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