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Anesthesia: Pre-Operative Information for Patients

Who are anesthesiologists?
The anesthesiologist is responsible for your sedation. Anesthesiologists are doctors who provide one-on-one medical care during surgery. These physicians work to ensure the best possible outcome from your upcoming procedure.

What does the anesthesiologist do during the procedure?

  • Provides for your comfort and safety
  • Manages pre-existing medical conditions and problems that may develop during surgery
  • Monitors and controls blood pressure, EKG, heart rate, breathing and oxygen levels
  • Gives medications to control pain

Can I eat or drink before my surgery?
Follow these guidelines unless otherwise instructed by your surgeon.

  • During the four hours before: Do not eat or drink anything (only small sips of water to swallow medicines).
  • Four to eight hours before: You may only drink clear liquids, such as water, sport drinks, fruit juices without pulp, black coffee, clear tea or carbonated drinks. You may drink up to two glasses.
  • Eight to 12 hours before: You may only eat a small light meal (toast, jam, cereal, fruit and clear liquids). Do not eat fried or fatty foods. Do not eat any food after midnight if your surgeon has placed you on a clear liquid diet or if you are having a procedure involving your stomach or bowels.

What are the types of anesthesia?

  • General is similar to a deep sleep. During surgery, you will not feel, see or hear anything.
  • Regional (epidural, spinal, nerve blocks) puts part of your body to sleep. Injecting drugs around the appropriate nerves produces numbness. This is often combined with sedation that provides a state of relaxation.
  • Sedation increases your comfort and provides relaxation and pain control.

How does the anesthesiologist choose the type of anesthesia to give me?
Your anesthesiologist makes this decision in consultation with your surgeon. He or she bases this decision on what is needed for your surgery, your medical history and health, and your wishes.

What if I smoke?
We encourage you to stop smoking. You can get help from the State of Maryland Quit Smoking Line at 1-800-Quit-Now (1-800-784-8669).

What about awareness during surgery?

  • Intended Awareness. Sometimes it is appropriate or necessary for a patient to be awake or aware. Patients may have some awareness when brought into the operating room (before the surgery starts) and when waking up from anesthesia (after the procedure is over).
  • Unintended Awareness. This is rare. The anesthesiologist takes many precautions to prevent unintended awareness.

What about possible complications or side effects from anesthesia?
Serious complications are rare. Anesthesia is much safer and more effective than ever before.

  • Nausea and vomiting may occur as the result of narcotic pain medicine, certain types of procedures and the patient's history of nausea or motion sickness. There are several medications available that decrease the incidence of nausea and vomiting.
  • Dental injury may be unavoidable. A tooth, cap or bridge may become chipped or loosened when the anesthesiologist is managing your breathing.
  • Sore throat is common along with some tongue or lip swelling after surgery.
  • Nerve injury that causes permanent loss of sensation or strength in part of the body is rare.
  • Back injury from epidurals or spinals is not common. In fact, epidural injections are a common treatment of severe back pain.
  • Serious complications like heart or lung failure are most often related to the patient's pre-existing health and medical condition. Heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and severe obesity increase the risk of these complications.

Your anesthesiologist looks forward to meeting and taking care of you
Before your procedure date, you may be asked or may request to make an appointment to meet with a member of the department. We also may require additional testing or evaluations in order to be able to provide the safest anesthesia care. The day of your surgery, immediately before your procedure, you will meet your anesthesiologist to discuss and finalize the best anesthetic plan for you.


  Holy Cross Hospital
  Holy Cross Germantown Hospital

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