Before Anesthesia: Your role

Anesthesia is a major part of your surgery.

During the procedure, anesthesia allows you to be free of pain. All anesthesia care is provided with the highest degree of professionalism, including constant monitoring of every important body function. As changes occur in your reactions to anesthesia, the nurse anesthetist responds with modifications of the anesthetic to ensure your safety and comfort.

In addition to their role in the procedure itself, nurse anesthetists make many preparations for you before surgery. You can — and should — take an active role in these preparations by communicating and cooperating with your nurse anesthetist and your surgeon.

There are several kinds of anesthesia.

The one chosen for you is based on factors such as your physical condition, the nature of the surgery and your reactions to medications. Frank and open discussion with your nurse anesthetist is key in the selection of the best anesthetic for you.

In particular, you must speak freely and follow instructions closely regarding your intake of medications, food or beverages before anesthesia. Such substances can react negatively with anesthetic drugs and chemicals.

The preoperative interview is essential to effective communication.

This confidential discussion with the nurse anesthetist prior to surgery provides information vital to your care. You may be given a questionnaire to fill out and bring along to the preoperative interview. Information supplied by the questionnaire assists your nurse anesthetist in doing the interview thoroughly and efficiently.

Different types of patients or procedures may require different types of anesthesia.

  • Pregnant patients should prepare before the onset of labor for the possibility of having an anesthetic, even if a natural childbirth is planned. During pregnancy, keep accurate records of allergies, high blood pressure, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. The use of drugs, including recreational drugs and alcohol, can increase the risk of anesthetic complications for both mother and baby.
  • Older adults go through complex physical changes while aging that may affect their bodies’ response to anesthesia. You or your family can assist the nurse anesthetist by providing a detailed list of all medications, including aspirin, taken regularly.
  • Patients with hereditary disorders such as diabetes and sickle cell anemia need special attention. These conditions can be managed properly if the nurse anesthetist knows about them before a procedure.
  • Children should be specially prepared for anesthesia, and for surgery in general. Allow them to bring favorite toys along for their stay. Make frequent reference to things children will enjoy after the procedure. If possible, take children on a hospital tour and let them talk with hospital personnel, particularly the nurse anesthetist.
  • Ambulatory care allows you to go home the same day as your surgery. It is mportant, however, to provide the same accurate information during the preoperative interview. In addition, preparations should be made before ambulatory surgery for another adult to accompany you to the healthcare facility, drive you home and monitor your recovery.

Remember:

Speak frankly. Ask questions. Follow instructions. Provide your nurse anesthetist with a medical history. And, notify your nurse anesthetist or doctor immediately of any change in your physical condition prior to surgery. Communication and cooperation are essential to the anesthesia process.

Note: The above information was provided by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. For more information visit www.aana.com or www.AnesthesiaPatientSafety.com.

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