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Anesthesiology

Anesthesia is the use of medication to temporarily numb parts of the body to help patients experience pain-free surgeries and procedures.

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Providing pain-free surgical procedures

Anesthesiologists are available in our hospitals around the clock for emergency surgeries and to welcome newborn babies who are ready to greet the world. Anesthesiologists will also monitor your condition before, during and after surgery at a variety of sites and locations, such as: 

  • Electrophysiology lab
  • Intensive care units (neonatal, pediatric, medical, surgical, cardiac, neuro)
  • Labor and delivery suites
  • Operating room (OR)
  • Post-anesthesia care unit (PACU)

It’s normal for people to feel groggy or loopy once the anesthesia wears off, depending on the type they received. The good news is that breakthrough technologies are making anesthesia safer than ever before. Now, the transition from numbness to alertness is even more seamless and comforting.

Dr. Sharma Joseph, Attending Anesthesiology Physician, talking to and preparing patient for endoscopy procedure.
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More than 25 million surgical procedures are performed each year in the United States alone. Chances are, the health and well-being of almost everyone you know has been touched by the science of anesthesiology.

Our goal is to help you feel at ease by educating and informing you about your different anesthesia options. Your anesthesiologist will meet with you either on the day of your surgery or beforehand at your preoperative visit. 

What to expect at your preoperative visit

During your preoperative visit, we’ll discuss your medical history, review various anesthetic options and their risks and ask important questions. Your anesthesiologist will also walk you through the many safety precautions we take during your surgery.

It’s extremely helpful to bring these materials to your visit:

  • Medical history records
  • Complete list of medications and their doses that you take regularly or have taken recently

Our care team will use this information plus data from your tests to put together your anesthesia plan.

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Treatments

Our anesthesia care team touches on all aspects of daily hospital life and influences almost every medical specialty. They provide clinical anesthesia, intensive care and pain management services, including: 

Your anesthesiologist will discuss which type of anesthesia may be right for you. There are 4 main types of anesthesia:

  1. General anesthesia
  2. Regional anesthesia
  3. Local anesthesia
  4. Sedation

General anesthesia

We use general anesthesia for major surgeries so that you don’t experience any sensations while in an unconscious state. This is the only type of anesthesia where the patient is unconscious.

How is general anesthesia administered?

You can receive general anesthesia in 2 ways:

  1. As a gas or vapor inhaled through a breathing mask or tube
  2. As a medication introduced through a vein
What happens during general anesthesia?

For surgeries requiring general anesthesia, rest assured that your anesthesiologist will carefully monitor and control your vitals while you're in a deep sleep. How much anesthesia and how long it’s administered is a precise science.

As an extra safety step, a breathing tube may be used to ensure your breathing is normal throughout the surgery. Once your surgery wraps up, your anesthesiologist will be right alongside you in the recovery room, where you will then regain consciousness.

Regional anesthesia

Regional anesthesia temporarily numbs a specific area of the body, like receiving an epidural while in labor. You’ll be completely awake but pain-free during surgeries requiring regional anesthesia.

How is regional anesthesia administered?

Regional anesthesia is injected near a cluster of nerves to numb an area of your body. Nowadays, there are smart devices that help anesthesiologists pinpoint nerves that need to be targeted for the procedure.

What are common types of regional anesthesia?

Two of the most common types of regional anesthesia are:

  1. Spinal anesthesia
  2. Epidural anesthesia

These 2 forms are injected into the back with great precision. They're frequently preferred for childbirth and prostate surgery.

Local anesthesia

Local anesthesia temporarily numbs a small area of the body that needs minor surgery, like when a deep cut requires stitches or when your doctor needs to take a small biopsy.

How is local anesthesia administered?

Local anesthesia is usually injected into the tissue to numb the targeted body part. For example, we might numb only a part of your hand or foot.

Sedation

Also known as the “twilight sleep,” sedation allows you to relax or even fall into a light sleep during a procedure, like a colonoscopy.

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FAQs

Can I request what type of anesthesia to receive?

Yes, you can sometimes request certain kinds of anesthesia. After reviewing your individual situation, your anesthesiologist will discuss any available options with you.

What are the risks from anesthesia?

Have peace of mind knowing that risks from anesthesia are very rare. Your anesthesiologist takes precautions to ensure you’re in the safest hands possible.

Anesthesia risks vary between procedures and your unique conditions. Our team is always available to discuss your concerns, so please talk through your questions with your anesthesiologist

Is anesthesia safe?

Yes, anesthesia is safe. The American Society of Anesthesiologists developed national standards to enhance the safety and quality of anesthesia.

Here are a few standards that are already used today:

  • Patient care before surgery
  • Basic methods of monitoring patients during surgery
  • Patient care during recovery
  • Conduction anesthesia in obstetrics

Your safety always comes first. The combination of today’s standards, monitoring approaches, anesthesia equipment and medications makes anesthesia safer than ever.

Does Tufts Medicine offer pediatric anesthesia?

Yes, many of our staff have subspecialty training and certification in pediatric anesthesia. We take pediatric anesthesia very seriously, which is why we even have a dedicated Pediatric Anesthesia Fellowship program, where we train future generations of professionals to provide unmatched care for even our littlest patients. 

Anesthesiologist Megan Pursley, SRNA comforting patient before surgery.
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Fiona Wu and Megan Pursley, both SRNA Anesthesiologists, prep and comfort patient before daVinci surgery.
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