general information to know about general anesthesia iii

In our last post on this important topic, our blog discussed some of the risk factors typically associated with general anesthesia, as well as the rare complications that can arise with its use. Today, we’ll continue this discussion by exploring what happens when a patient is under general anesthesia and the importance of the pre-surgery discussion with an anesthesiologist.

How general anesthesia is administered and monitored

For the majority of adult surgical patients, they will be wheeled into the OR on a gurney, where they’ll be administered general anesthesia via an IV inserted in their arm. However, for pediatric patients and other adult patients, the anesthesia may be administered via a gas inhaled through a mask.

Once the patient is under, there’s a strong likelihood that a tube will be placed into their mouth and routed down the windpipe. The reason this step is taken is that the general anesthesia will relax the muscles located in the airway and digestive tract that are specifically designed to keep both food and acid confined to the stomach. Accordingly, the tube helps ensure that 1) the patient receives the necessary oxygen and 2) blood or bodily secretions are kept out of the lungs.

During the course of the surgical procedure, a member of the anesthesia team — typically comprised of an anesthesiologist and nurse anesthetist — will monitor the patient’s vital signs (breathing, temperature, blood pressure, etc.), adjust medications as needed and address any abnormalities that may arise.

The pre-surgery discussion

Prior to the surgical procedure, the anesthesiologist should have a discussion with the patient in order to learn more about his or her health history, drug allergies, previous experiences with general anesthesia, and any medications or herbal supplements he or she is taking.

The primary purpose of this discussion is to alert the anesthesiologist as to whether the patient has complied with pre-surgery fasting instructions, or presents certain risk factors concerning his or her health (i.e., has sleep apnea, diabetes, etc.) and medication. Based on the information received, the anesthesiologist can determine whether to proceed, and the type of medication that is safe and appropriate for the patient.

In future posts, we’ll examine what happens when a patient comes out from under general anesthesia and examine a rare yet alarming condition known as anesthesia awareness.

Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you or a loved one have suffered unimaginable pain and suffering due to an anesthesia error. Together, you can examine your options for pursuing justice and peace of mind.

Source: The Mayo Clinic, “General anesthesia: Tests and procedures,” Jan. 19, 2013

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