What is an Anesthesiologist?
An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who has completed medical school, an internship, and 4 years of specialized education in anesthesiology. In Canada, an anesthesiologist is certified as a specialist physician by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and has the designation Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada (FRCPC).
In rural and remote areas of Canada, there is a special group of doctors providing anesthesiology care… General Practice Anesthetists. These are skilled family doctors who have also completed additional training in one of the university departments of anesthesiology.
What does an Anesthesiologist do?
Anesthesiologists keep patients safe and comfortable in several settings. The most well-known is in the operating room during surgery; but in modern health care systems, the role of an anesthesiologist extends far beyond the operating room. Anesthesiologists provide medical assessments of patients prior to their surgery – improving patient safety by making sure that pre-existing health conditions are optimally managed. Anesthesiologists also provide care after surgery – especially for those patients requiring intensive (life support) care, or specialized pain management techniques.
Anesthesiologists also care for patients who do not require surgery. Women experiencing childbirth, patients undergoing interventional (radiology or cardiology) procedures, people with intractable mental health conditions, and those with severe chronic pain conditions all benefit from the expertise of anesthesiologists.
Not all painful surgeries and procedures require a general anesthetic (a drug-induced coma). An increasing number of British Columbians opt for a regional anesthetic (part of the body is frozen, but the patient may remain awake or partially sedated). In either situation, there is an anesthesiologist always at your side to ensure your comfort and safety during the procedure.
What is a General Anesthetic?
A general anesthetic is often referred to as a ‘deep sleep’, but it is actually a tightly-controlled, drug-induced coma that is achieved with the administration of powerful anesthetic medications. It is reversible, permitting the patient to ‘wake up’. In addition to adjusting the anesthetic medications throughout the procedure, the anesthesiologist must often administer additional specific medications that alter the ability of the muscles to move, or the ability of the body to respond to painful incisions. During a general anesthetic, the patient’s breathing and cardiac status remain paramount, and must often be controlled by the anesthesiologist. Although complicated, with knowledge and experience, general anesthesia performed to Canadian standards is an extremely safe practice.
What is a Regional Anesthetic?
A regional anesthetic is when part of the body is ‘frozen’ by the special administration of a local anesthetic. The best-known example is epidural anesthesia for women during childbirth. There have been major advances in regional anesthesia in the last 2 decades: now, an increasing number of surgeries can be performed with the patient comfortably awake and returning home soon after the procedure is completed.
What is an Anesthesia Care Team?
The Anesthesia Care Team is a group of professionals dedicated to the care of patients before, during, and after surgery. Led by the physician anesthesiologist, this team consists of nurses and respiratory therapists, some of whom have taken additional specialized training (e.g. a one-year Anesthesia Assistant program), and all of whom work together to ensure excellent care that is safe, effective, and efficient.
How Can I Make Sure I Am Prepared?
If you are expecting a child or if you are waiting to have surgery, you probably have lots of questions… and you definitely want to know that your care will be as safe and as satisfying as possible. Ask for an appointment with an anesthesiologist at the hospital where your care will be provided. An anesthesiology consultation can be requested by your surgeon or by your primary caregiver (family doctor, midwife, or nurse practitioner). We would be happy to meet with you, to answer your questions, and to ensure that you get the best care tailored to your specific medical needs.
For more information about anesthesiologists, please click here.