Before discussing risk, let’s dig in towards the requirements of becoming an anesthesiologist. An anesthesiologist is a physician (M.D., or D.O.) who administers pain-killing gas or injections during operations and surgical procedures. This could include a variety of drugs and levels of anesthesia from a local numbing agent to general anesthesia where the patient is rendered completely unconscious for the duration of the surgery.
Anesthesiologists are an integral part of the surgery team and must work well with surgeons, surgical techs, and nurses. Because an anesthesiologist is a medical doctor, they must complete all of the education and training required of all physicians. They do need 4 years of college to obtain an undergraduate degree, another four to earn the status of a medical degree, followed by another 4 years of residency training. Additional fellowship training is optional, such as a pain management fellowship, or additional training in pediatrics, for example.
Risks associated – I’ve no intention to scare the new anesthesiologists but to bring the facts to light. Surgery and anesthesia are safer today than ever before, thanks to continuing advances in science. Certain patients are more likely to experience problems or complications and possibly even death than others because of their age, medical conditions or the type of surgery they’re having.
Your anesthesia risk might be higher if you have or have ever had any of the following conditions:
- Allergies to anesthesia or a history of adverse reactions to anesthesia
- Heart disease (angina, valve disease, heart failure or a previous heart attack)
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Lung conditions (asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD)
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Seizures or other neurological disorders
- Smoking or drinking two or more alcoholic beverages a day also increases your risk.
General anesthesia causes you to become unconsciousness. This type of anesthesia, while very safe, is the type most likely to cause side effects and to carry risks. Most side effects are minor and temporary, such as nausea, vomiting, chills, confusion for a few days and a sore throat caused by a breathing tube.
The safest type of anesthesia is local anesthesia, an injection of medication that numbs a small area of the body where the procedure is being performed. Rarely, a patient will experience pain or itching where the medication was injected.
No matter what you have a life in your hands and you can save it. Physician anesthesiologists are the most highly skilled medical experts in anesthesia care, pain management, and critical care medicine with the education and training that can mean the difference between life and death.