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Six things to know before going under anesthesia

The idea of being sedated for a surgery is understandably nerve-wracking. Will anesthesia make you confess your deepest secrets? Is it hard to wake up after surgery? Anesthesiologist John Meisinger, M.D., breaks down the facts you need to know prior to a procedure.

1. Most patients meet their anesthesiologist pre-surgery

In most circumstances, the patient will meet their anesthesiologist prior to surgery.

“When patients come to the hospital for their surgery, they will meet an anesthesiologist who will discuss the type of anesthesia they will need for their surgery,” says Dr. Meisinger.

2. Most patients receive general anesthesia

Most people receive general anesthesia, which is the deepest form of anesthesia, and will be rendered unconscious for the duration of the surgery. 

General anesthesia is obtained through the use of multiple medications. These medications are initially administered through an IV and are then transitioned to inhaled anesthetics once the patient is asleep.

These medications include:

  • Sedatives for relaxation 

  • Narcotics to reduce pain

  • Hypnotics to decrease awareness

3. Each patient’s anesthesia is customized

When the anesthesiologist meets with the patient, he or she will develop a tailored plan for that person’s needs.

“Each patient is different in terms of what we need to give them for anesthesia,” explains Dr. Meisinger. “Patients who are older and have more medical conditions often require less medication or different types of medication as compared to younger, healthier individuals.”

4. The patient’s prior experience with anesthesia will be taken into account

“Patients are often concerned about the amount of medications given and how easily they will wake up from the anesthesia afterward,” he says. “It’s not uncommon for us to change medications depending on their experiences in the past to help make sure this time they are awake and alert as soon as they can be.”

5. Lighter sedation methods are available

For certain procedures, anesthesiologists can use a lighter form of anesthesia called deep sedation or monitored anesthesia care.

“With this type of sedation, we do not need to place a breathing tube and we can just give medicines through the IV,” says Dr. Meisinger.

After deep sedation, patients may recall hearing voices or briefly opening their eyes, but they are comfortable and pain-free during the procedure.

6. Anesthesia won’t make you confess your deepest secrets

“Patients are sometimes concerned about receiving medication that might cause them to say things they regret later,” says Dr. Meisinger.

It’s normal to feel relaxed while receiving anesthesia, but most people don’t say anything unusual.  

Rest assured, even if you do say something you wouldn’t normally say while you are under sedation, Dr. Meisinger says, “it’s always kept within the operating room. We know the patient is under extra medications and it’s not a concern to us at all.”

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