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Anesthesiologists are doctors who are trained to give anesthetics—medicines used to block nerve sensation. Anesthesia is used in a variety of ways:

  • Local to block feeling to a specific body part, like a finger
  • Regional to block feeling to a larger part of the body
  • General to block sensation to the entire body, resulting in unconsciousness

Anesthesiologists meet with patients, children through adulthood, before their operation to discuss the patients’ concerns and surgical history, including their experiences with anesthesia. The type of anesthesia you receive depends upon many factors, including what procedure you will be having, your age, and your past and current health. Factors such as chronic disease or heart and lung problems figure into your anesthesia.

During surgery, anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) determine how much anesthesia is needed. They monitor the patient’s level of responsiveness and vital signs during surgery, including breathing, heart rhythm, blood pressure, brain function, and kidney function. After surgery, the anesthesia specialist brings the patient out of anesthesia and continues to monitor the patient’s vital signs. They also manage and treat medical problems that may be present before surgery, or that may develop during or right after surgery.

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