What is an anaesthetic?
The word ‘anaesthesia’ means loss of sensation. An anaesthetic is a treatment that prevents you from feeling pain during your operation. Anaesthetics work by blocking the signals that pass along your nerves to your brain. A general anaesthetic makes you unconscious and unaware, more commonly known as ‘sending you off to sleep’.
This is typically achieved by injecting anaesthetic drugs into a vein in your arm or hand. Once started, you will quickly become light headed and then unconscious. Once you are unconscious, your anaesthetist will continue to administer anaesthetic drugs or anaesthetic gases so that you remain asleep. Your anaesthetist will carefully monitor you throughout the entire procedure. Once your operation is over, your general anaesthetic will be stopped and you will regain consciousness.
The role of your anaesthetist
Your anaesthetist is a doctor with specialist training in the use of anaesthetics, pain management and the care of patients.
Your anaesthetist is responsible for assessing that you are fit enough to be given an anaesthetic, planning which type of anaesthetic is best for you, giving you your anaesthetic, ensuring that you are safe throughout your operation and looking after you whilst you recover from your anaesthetic.
The anaesthetic room
Here you will meet your anaesthetist and theatre staff. They will check your name and date of birth and will ask you about other details in your medical records as a final check before your operation. You will be connected to some monitors that check your breathing, heartbeat and blood pressure. Sticky patches will be placed on your chest and a clip will be placed on your finger. The monitors will bleep in time with your heartbeat. To monitor your blood pressure a small needle will be placed in your radial artery under local anaesthesia. To give you your anaesthetic a small cannula will be introduced into a vein on your hand or arm. Do not forget to pick a nice dream before going off to sleep!
During your operation
Your anaesthetist will remain with you throughout your operation to ensure that you are kept safe and comfortable.
After your operation
Your anaesthetist will take you to the Intensive Care Unit. Here a team of doctors nurses will look after you until you are well enough to be taken to a ward.
Some Thoughts about Anesthetists
At meetings of groups of anaesthetists time is spent talking about the How? and Why? the When? and Where? of anaesthesia, but hardly ever is the question Who?
Who is the anasthetist ? What sort of person is he ? Does it matter what sort of person he is ?
We hear a lot about the ‘team’ in modern surgical practice and in the case of heart surgery it may well compare in size with a football eleven !
But the basic unit is still a pair - a surgeon and an anasthetist - and the situation existing between them is of vital importance in determining the quality of surgical operations performed.
But who is the anasthetist ? He must be orderly in mind, equable in temperament, slow to anger and something of a diplomat. He should not seek the lime-light - for it will never fall upon him. An accompanist rather than an artiste, his satisfaction (which will always remain his private) is in his knowledge that without him the surgical performance would not have been possible.
by D Bateman (1963) - St Mark´s Hospital London, UK