1. What is the normal recovery time for a general anesthetic?
Answer: Most people are awake in the recovery room immediately after an operation but remain groggy for a few hours afterward. Your body will take up to a week to completely eliminate the medicines from your system but most people will not notice much effect after about 24 hours. For this reason, we ask you to refrain from making important decisions or from driving a car for 24 hours after your surgery. In those with significant medical problems, complex or long surgeries or advanced age, the time for wake up may be longer.
2. Is there an age where it is no longer safe to have anesthesia?
Answer: No. Anesthesia can be performed safely in any age group. We are more concerned with chronic medical conditions and overall health than with actual age. Some people are quite healthy and active into their 90's while some are significantly limited by medical conditions at a much earlier age. Please make sure your anesthesia provider is aware of your chronic medical problems prior to your operation.
3. Will I wake up during my operation?
Answer: No. Although this is a real problem and it has received a great deal of attention in the popular press, fortunately for us it is very uncommon in our practice. As I will explain in the next question, your anesthetic will not "run out" if your surgery lasts longer than anticipated. All of the doctors at Georgia Anesthesiologists are concerned about preventing awareness during an operation and we have additional monitoring available that may help ensure that you are fully anesthetized. If you have special concerns, be sure to mention them to your anesthesiologist.
4. How do you put me to sleep?
Answer: Most anesthesiologists use a combination of medicines to put you to sleep. These medicines last a short period of time (about 20 minutes). Once the patient is asleep, we place a breathing device to maintain control of breathing. To keep patients asleep, we use anesthesia gas. When the operation is over, we shut off the anesthetic and let the patient wake up. The advantage of using this complicated system is that your anesthetic can be easily tailored to be as long or as short as it needs to be.
5. Why can't I eat or drink before my operation?
Answer: This is a problem that is unique to anesthesia. While you are asleep, you may regurgitate the contents of your stomach into your mouth and throat. While you are sedated, your body looses the ability to protect its own airway and cough these secretions out. Therefore, the contents of your stomach can be vomited and then aspirated (sucked) into your lungs. This can cause a severe lung injury requiring prolonged hospitalization, a mechanical ventilator, a difficult infection and even in advanced cases death. For this reason, we ask you to have nothing at all by mouth for at least 8 hours prior to your scheduled surgery. We take this very seriously. If you are in violation of this policy, your surgery will be postponed or canceled.
6. What can you do to prevent nausea after the operation?
Answer: Depending upon any allergies, each patient is treated for the prevention of post operative nausea and vomiting. Although we do our best to prevent this from occurring, there is still the chance that you may have some mild discomfort for a brief period of time.
7. Will I remember the surgery?
Answer: The short answer is NO. The long answer is that you may remember the period just before going to sleep and the period when waking up while on the operating room table. However, most patients will not be fully aware of their surroundings until they are in the recovery room.
8. Will there be someone in the room with me throughout the surgery?
Answer: There will be either an Anesthesiologist (“M.D. or D.O.”) or an Anesthesiologist Assistant (“AA”) or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (“CRNA”) with you at all times. Their job will be to monitor a variety of vital signs, manage your depth of anesthesia and treat any problems that may arise during the surgery. There is always a team comprised of an Anesthesiologist and an Anesthetist available for any emergencies should that occur during your surgery.
9. Are there different kinds of anesthesia?
Answer: There are three main categories of anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Each has many forms and uses.
In local anesthesia, the anesthetic drug is usually injected into the tissue to numb just the specific location of your body requiring minor surgery, for example, on the hand or foot.
In regional anesthesia, your anesthesiologist makes an injection near a cluster of nerves to numb the area of your body that requires surgery. You may remain awake, or you may be given a sedative. You do not see or feel the actual surgery take place. There are several kinds of regional anesthesia. Two of the most frequently used are spinal anesthesia and epidural anesthesia, which are produced by injections made with great exactness in the appropriate areas of the back. They are frequently preferred for childbirth and prostate surgery.
In general anesthesia, you are unconscious and have no awareness or other sensations. There are a number of general anesthetic drugs. Some are gases or vapors inhaled through a breathing mask or tube and others are medications introduced through a vein. During anesthesia, you are carefully monitored, controlled and treated by your anesthesiologist, who uses sophisticated equipment to track all your major bodily functions. A breathing tube may be inserted through your mouth and frequently into the windpipe to maintain proper breathing during this period. The length and level of anesthesia is calculated and constantly adjusted with great precision. At the conclusion of surgery, your anesthesiologist will reverse the process and you will regain awareness in the recovery room.
10. How is the epidural block performed for labor and delivery?
Answer: An epidural block is given in the lower back. You will either be sitting up or lying on your side. The block is administered below the level of the spinal cord. The anesthesiologist will use a local anesthesia to numb an area of your lower back. A special needle is placed in the epidural space just outside the spinal sac.
11. Will I receive a separate bill from the anesthesiologist’s office?
Answer: Yes. In addition to the surgeon’s bill and the hospital’s bill, you will receive a separate bill for the services provided by your anesthesiologist. If you are a “self-pay” patient (i.e. you have no insurance or your insurance will not cover your elective procedure), please contact our office in advance of your procedure to make the necessary payment arrangements. Our courteous and professional staff will estimate your charges for you, which you are required to pay in advance of your procedure. Any balance due will be billed to you following the surgery. If for some reason the procedure is shorter than expected, you may be due a refund, which we will remit to you as soon as possible. If payment is not received prior to surgery, your surgery may be cancelled or postponed.
12. Do you accept various forms of payment?
Answer: Yes, we participate with most insurance companies. Any amount due from the patient can be paid by cash, check, or charge card. For convenience of our patients, we now have online bill pay capabilities on our website. We understand that because of financial hardship, some patients simply cannot afford full payment of their anesthesia fees at one time. Therefore, in cases of financial hardship, for amounts in excess of $250, we can also arrange for patient payment plans. Payment plans must be arranged and approved in advance of the patient’s procedure.