Prepare for surgery: 5 steps every patient should take

(BPT) – Surgery and anesthesia are safer than ever, but can make even the most fearless patient a bit nervous. Most patients don’t know about the steps they can and should take to make their experience safer and more comfortable.

One of the most important things patients can do to make surgery as safe as possible is to have a detailed conversation with their physician anesthesiologist before any surgery or procedure, according to Dr. J.P. Abenstein, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA).

“Patients know that the physician anesthesiologist ‘puts them to sleep’ before surgery but they know little about the medical care and services we provide,” Abenstein says. “The ASA encourages everyone to learn more about the importance of asking questions and sharing information about their lifestyle, health, family history and even their fears about anesthesia and surgery before any procedure.”

In conjunction with Physician Anesthesiologists Week 2015, ASA offers the following tips for a safe surgery and anesthesia experience.

* Know who will be administering your anesthesia. Your anesthesia care team should be led by a physician anesthesiologist: a medical doctor specializing in anesthesia, pain and critical care medicine, who works with your surgeon and other medical personnel to develop and administer your anesthesia care plan. Physician anesthesiologists help ensure safe, high-quality care.

* Meet with your physician anesthesiologist. During this meeting, provide detailed information about your health and lifestyle because certain medical conditions and lifestyle habits can make a difference, and your physician anesthesiologist can adjust your care plan accordingly. Do you have diabetes, lung problems, kidney disease or allergies? What medications do you take, including over-the-counter and herbal/natural medications? Have you or your family ever had a bad reaction to anesthesia or pain medication, even years ago? They’ll ask you about things that may seem minor, but they can be important. Do you smoke? Do you snore? Are you sedentary? How far can you walk?

* Are you afraid? Don’t be nervous to say so. It’s natural to fear surgery and anesthesia, and your physician anesthesiologist can give you information that will help put your mind at ease. Feeling safe is critical to having a positive and safe surgery experience.

* Come prepared and ask any questions that may be on your mind. Be sure to ask about the credentials and experience of your care team. Also ask for any and all details you want about the procedure and the anesthesia.

* Discuss your recovery. Your anesthesia care team continues to care for you after your surgery. Ask about how your pain will be managed after your procedure and any concerns you have about recovery, returning home and getting back to your normal routine.

To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists have before, during and after surgery, and about your own role in ensuring your safety and comfort, visit

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