What Does An Anesthesiologist Do?
"The doctor who administers anesthesia to patients about to undergo an operation seems to have the coolest job in the world. I’d like to become one someday. But I’m curious if this is their only responsibility. What does an anesthesiologist do?"
asked by Chris M. from El Paso, Texas
Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who specialize in the field of anesthesiology. They ensure that patients undergoing surgery are kept free from pain and safe throughout the entire surgery period. Their main task is administering drugs that remove the pain sensation during an operation or medical procedure. Depending on the type of surgical procedure, anesthesiologists can put the patient to sleep by giving general anesthesia, numb the portion of the body that is being operated on by providing regional anesthesia or calming the patient through sedation.
The role of anesthesiologists is not over after the anesthetic has been given. They are there while the surgery is in progress, ensuring that the patient’s vital signs remain steady. They adjust the amount of anesthetic when necessary and monitor blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and body temperature, among others. While the surgery is going on, their main goal is to get the patient through the operation safely.
In the event the patient exhibits signs of low blood pressure, substantial blood loss, heart arrhythmia, insufficient blood flow to the heart or other life-threatening conditions, the anesthesiologist sees to it that this is addressed immediately to keep the patient alive. Using specialized techniques, anesthesiologists see to it that vital signs are kept under control so as the minimize bleeding, prevent the need for transfusions and promote faster recovery.
While anesthesiologists seem to work only in the operating room, their work actually extends before and after the surgery. Before the operation, they conduct a preoperative evaluation of the patient. In this procedure, the anesthesiologist looks at the patient’s health and the surgical operation he is set to undergo to determine if he is ready for the procedure.
If not, the anesthesiologist may suggest that the operation be postponed to another date to better prepare the patient for surgery. It is also from this assessment that the anesthesiologist will be able to craft the safest plan of anesthesia. He also works together with the other members of the patient’s medical team to determine the treatment plan before, during and after the operation.
After the procedure, the anesthesiologist is also by the patient’s side. He sees to it that the patient recovers well. They are also part of the team that manages those who are dealing with postoperative pain after a cancer-related surgical operation.
They also help manage those recovering from blood transfusion therapies and cardiac and respiratory resuscitation and other operations. Anesthesiologists can help lessen a patient’s postoperative pain by administering intravenous pain medications.
The expertise of anesthesiologists is also needed in the intensive care unit when patients need relief from their chronic pain. They are also needed by women who are set to give birth, providing epidural anesthesia or general anesthesia as necessary.