Anaesthesia is a specialty of medicine that is devoted to allowing surgeons to perform operations on people safely. In the UK, all anaesthetists have qualified as doctors and worked on the wards before starting specialist training in anaesthesia. Consultant anaesthetists have completed specialist training and are on the specialist register of the General Medical Council. The anaesthetist in the UK can more accurately be considered a peri-operative physician, as they have a function before, during and after any operation. Actually giving the anaesthetic is a relatively small component of their role.
Broadly speaking, there are 2 ways of anaesthetising someone for an operation: General Anaesthetics and Regional Anaesthetics. All modern anaesthetics are very safe and both techniques are equally safe. The particular technique used depends on the operation, whether the patient suffers from any chronic diseases, as well as the skill set of the anaesthetist and the preference of the patient.
This is where the patient is made unconscious for the duration of the operation by the administration of drugs. Usually, the start of the anaesthetic occurs when drugs are given intravenously, but it can be given through a mask. This is uncommon in adults, but more common in children, especially those under 5 years old. If the anaesthetist does nothing else, then after a few minutes the patient would regain consciousness. So to maintain unconsciousness, the anaesthetist will administer an anaesthetic drug either intravenously or by getting the patient to breath an anaesthetic vapour.
This technique is used to stop feeling in the area that is being operated on. Local anaesthetics are used to block nerve impulses, so that the surgeon can operate without the patient feeling any pain. Some sensations of movement and vibration may be preserved, so it is possible to have some sense of what is happening. This technique is useful but is not suitable for all operations, for example it would not be possible to have keyhole surgery on the tummy using a regional anaesthetic technique.
Whichever technique is used, the anaesthetist will monitor the patient closely. Monitors used will allow the anaesthetist to monitor the heart, lungs and all the body's vital organs.
The anaesthetist's role is not purely in the operating suite. They are also responsible for assessing patients before the operation to make sure that it is safe to go ahead with surgery. Some operations or patients need the back up of a critical care unit and the anaesthetist will make the final decision about safe anaesthesia.
After the operation, the anaesthetist is there to help the surgeon manage the patient's immediate problems until the patient is stable. This may be a matter of minutes, hours or a day or so after the operation is over.
“Best anesthetist that I've met in 8 operations.”Mrs A.H.
“An excellent, caring doctor.”Mr J.D.