What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is freedom from pain. Each year, millions of people in the United States undergo some form of medical treatment requiring anesthesia. Anesthesia, in the hands of qualified professionals like Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), is a safe and effective means of alleviating pain during nearly every type of medical procedure.

Anesthesia care is not confined to surgery alone. The process also refers to activities that take place both before and after an anesthetic is given.

Who administers anesthesia?

In the majority of cases, anesthesia is administered by a CRNA.

CRNAs work with your surgeon, dentist or podiatrist, and may work with an anesthesiologist (physician anesthetist). CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses with specialized graduate-level education in anesthesiology.

For more than 150 years, nurse anesthetists have been administering anesthesia in all types of surgical cases, using all anesthetic techniques and practicing in every setting in which anesthesia is administered.

Will my nurse anesthetist stay with me throughout my surgery?

Your nurse anesthetist stays with you for the entire procedure, constantly monitoring every important function of your body and individually modifying your anesthetic to ensure your maximum safety and comfort.

Are there different types of anesthesia?

There are three basic types of anesthesia:
  • General anesthesia produces a loss of sensation throughout the entire body.
  • Regional anesthesia produces a loss of sensation to a specific region of the body.
  • Local anesthesia produces a loss of sensation to a small specific area of the body.

Do nurse anesthetists administer pain care management?

Yes. The most common chronic care services provided by CRNAs, such as anesthetic injections near nerves, effectively reduce a patient’s need for prescription narcotics and opioids. Chronic intractable pain afflicts more than 100 million Americans and costs the United States over $600 billion per year. CRNAs are specifically trained and qualified to treat pain patients. Patients referred to a CRNA for pain care can be confident that their experience will be safe and appropriate. It may even change their quality of life for the better.

Questions you should ask...

Because responses will be different for each patient, based on medical history and personal characteristics, answers are not provided below. These are some sample questions you should ask your anesthesia provider before having surgery.
  • Which type of anesthesia is best for me and the surgery I am having?
  • What should I avoid eating or drinking before I come in to have my surgery?
  • Is it alright to come alone or should someone come with me?
  • Which kinds of medications do you need to know I am taking before I am operated on?
  • (Men) I am currently taking Viagra. Will that interfere with my anesthesia experience in any way?
  • Is it alright to take medications for my allergies before I come in?
  • I have asthma, what do I need to know before and after I have surgery?
  • I am diabetic, are there any special concerns before or after I have my surgery?
  • I take complementary / alternative medicines–will these pose any problems or is it alright to keep taking them before my surgery?
  • What about herbal supplements?
  • Will I be able to eat solid foods right after my surgery?
  • What if I have more questions after the surgery? Who can I contact?
  • My child is having surgery — what do I need to know? How can I help prepare my child for surgery? Will I be able to stay with my child until the anesthesia takes effect?
  • (Women) What are my anesthesia options for labor and delivery?