What to Expect

Before Your Surgery

Before your surgery, an anesthesia provider will perform an examination and evaluation of you to determine the type of anesthesia you will receive.

During Your Surgery

The anesthesia team will be present throughout your procedure as well as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) who often administers and monitors your anesthesia.

After Your Surgery

After your surgery or procedure, you will be transferred to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) and looked after by a recovery room registered nurse with specialized training, certification and experience. Learn more below!

Before Your Surgery

Drug Allergies – Your anesthesia provider needs to know if you have experienced any problems with drugs administered during previous surgical procedures. This information will help the anesthesia provider select and administer your anesthetic.

Eating and Drinking Before Surgery – If you have had food or drink within a few hours of surgery, there is a higher likelihood that you will experience complications during the induction of your anesthesia. In particular, there is a higher risk of aspiration if you do not have an empty stomach. You should avoid food and drink for 12 hours before surgery. Emergency surgery is an exception to the rule of no eating or drinking shortly before surgery, and special precautions can be taken to minimize the risk. When planning your surgery, ask your surgeon about eating and drinking restrictions.

Intravenous (IV) Line – You will most likely have an IV started before surgery for the injection of anesthesia fluid therapy and medications for pain and nausea.

Vital Body Sign Sensors – Before you go to sleep, monitors will be attached to your body, which will connect to monitors in the operating room. These monitors allow the anesthesiology team to monitor your vital signs during your anesthetic.

Communicate with Your Anesthesiology Team – During your preoperative examination, please feel free to ask your Anesthesiologist or CRNA any questions you have or to voice concerns. Be certain to inform the anesthesiology team of:

  • What food and drink you have consumed during the past 12-24 hours
  • Any special dental work (false teeth, bridges, etc.)
  • Any bad experience during previous surgeries
  • Any drug allergies

During Your Surgery

Anesthesia Drugs – The drugs used for anesthesia continue to improve with each passing year. The newer drugs have fewer side effects and complications; however, you need to inform your anesthesia team members of any previous negative experiences during surgery. They must know this information to administer the proper drugs in the proper dosage.

Breathing Tubes – If you are having local or regional anesthesia or sedation during your surgery, you will probably not need any breathing device other than an oxygen mask. General anesthesia decreases your ability to breathe on your own, and breathing often must be assisted during the course of your operation or procedure. There are many ways to provide assistance; most commonly, it will be with the use of an endotracheal (breathing) tube or a laryngeal mask airway (LMA).

If you need an endotracheal tube, it will be placed into your “windpipe” by passing it through the vocal cords using a laryngoscope. The endotracheal tube will be removed as soon as you are able to safely breathe on your own.

Dental Work and Teeth – You will probably not be aware of the placement or removal of the endotracheal tube. If you need an endotracheal tube, your anesthesia provider will take every precaution to avoid any complications during the placement and removal of it. The two main risks of an endotracheal tube placement are a risk for a sore throat following surgery and the potential damage to loose or sensitive teeth or dental work. During your preoperative evaluation, please inform your Anesthesiologist of any special dental work (false teeth, bridges, etc.) or if you have experienced any problems with a breathing tube during prior surgeries.

Laryngeal Mask Airway (LMA) – As an alternative, your anesthesia provider may use a Laryngeal Mask Airway instead of an endotracheal tube. The LMA is an effective method of assisting your breathing with a decreased likelihood of a sore throat. The LMA is frequently used for shorter surgery cases.

Awareness Under Anesthesia – Awareness during surgery is highly unlikely. Anesthesia providers take special care to constantly monitor and administer the proper level of anesthestic agents necessary to keep you asleep and pain free during your surgery. During your surgery, your anesthesia providers constantly monitor between 7-10 different parameters of your vital signs and responses to the surgery to avoid awareness and keep you safe during the procedure.

Cardiopulmonary (Heart-Lung) Bypass Machines – If you are scheduled for coronary artery bypass surgery or any type of surgery where the heart must be stopped, a cardiopulmonary (heart-lung) bypass machine may be used. The bypass machine is a specialized piece of medical equipment that takes the place of your heart and lungs during the surgery when your heart is stopped. The machine is operated by a specially trained technician under the direction of a surgeon.

Anesthesia Machines – Anesthesia machines are used by anesthesia providers to deliver the safest of anesthetics to you during your surgery. The machine has vital controls for the flow of oxygen, air, nitrous oxide and anesthesia gases. A breathing machine (ventilator), oxygen analyzer and scavenger system are also components of anesthesia machines. Sensors that are attached to your body before surgery are connected to the anesthesia machine to monitor your body and vital signs.

After Your Surgery

Your recovery from anesthesia will take a variable amount of time depending on the type of medications used, type and duration of surgery, and your special needs. You will stay in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) until you have met specific criteria for discharge to your hospital room or home.

Nausea and Vomiting – Some patients experience nausea and vomiting after surgery. Before surgery, let your anesthesia providers know if you have experienced nausea or vomiting after a previous surgery. You may be given medications to reduce the risk of nausea. Always inform your recovery room nurse if you feel nauseous.

Discomfort and Pain – You may experience some discomfort or pain after your surgery. Medication to relieve your discomfort or pain will be available to you so be sure to tell your recovery room nurse if you experience any pain.

Drowsiness Is Normal – You will be sleepy and drowsy after surgery, and you may feel drowsy for a couple of days or longer depending on your surgical procedure.