About Anesthesia

The University of Arizona Medical Center has a long standing tradition of providing excellent medical care in our modern, fully-equipped hospital. We want to direct your attention towards an important part of the operation or delivery that you will soon undergo—your anesthetic. Pain during your operation is prevented by anesthesia.  Your anesthesia is an important part of your operation, not only to relieve pain, but to make the operation easier, faster and safer.  In childbirth, the comfort of the mother and safety of the baby are both considered. We want to inform you about your anesthetic and answer many of your questions.

What is Anesthesia?

Whenever you receive an anesthetic, your entire body or a portion or part of your body must be “put to sleep” deeply enough that you feel no pain. In this way anesthesia differs from normal sleep. It also is different in that constant attention to your breathing, your heart, and all the important functions of your body is required. There are many drugs or medications available for use to produce this type of “sleep” or anesthesia.  Some of these drugs are used to produce unconsciousness, some to eliminate pain, others to obtain muscle relaxation, and still others to regulate the blood pressure, heart action, and body temperature.

What are the Risks of Anesthesia?

For the healthy patient, the risks of anesthesia are small. Modern anesthetic agents, techniques, and monitoring equipment enable your anesthesia specialist to control the amount of anesthetic you receive and to be constantly aware of your reactions and condition while under anesthesia. There are a few side effects from anesthesia, the most common being nausea, occasional vomiting, mild sore throat, and muscle soreness. Most often these symptoms are mild in nature and last only one to two days. These will be discussed with you in more detail before your surgery by a member of the Anesthesiology Department.

What Should I Expect Before Surgery

Before you will be moved to an operating room, a member of the Anesthesiology Department will visit with you to take a medical history and perform a physical examination. In determining the best anesthetic procedures for you, we will consider your medical condition, medications that you may be taking, whether or not you smoke, your previous experiences with anesthetics, allergies and the site and type of surgery you will be having. The various kinds of anesthesia that are suitable for your type of surgery will be discussed so that you and your anesthesia specialist can make decisions regarding your anesthetic plan. During this time we will try to help you feel more relaxed and assured by answering your questions and listening to your concerns about your upcoming surgery. 

What Type of Anesthetic is Best for Me?

  • General - If your anesthesiologist recommends general anesthesia, you will be asleep during your operation. Shortly after the end of surgery, you will awaken and be transferred to a recovery room. While you are asleep, your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and temperature will be monitored. For very complicated surgeries, other monitors may be recommended. The use and purpose of these monitoring systems will be discussed with you. Drugs used for general anesthesia can either be of the injectable type or inhaled vapors. Most often the two types of drugs are used together.

  • Regional - For regional anesthesia, only the part of the body undergoing surgery is anesthetized. You will be awake during the operation, although sedative are normally given with this procedure to allow you to rest comfortably during surgery. The monitoring of your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature will be in the same manner as during a general anesthetic.

What is the Recovery Room?

When your operation is over, you will be taken to a specially equipped area near the operating rooms. There, under the supervision of the anesthesiologist, nurses and other personnel with special training and experience will observe and care for you until you have awakened sufficiently to be returned to your own room. As a general rule, visitors are not allowed in the Recovery Room.

Will Same Day Surgery be Different?

The types of anesthesia given for same day surgery are similar to those used for inpatient surgery. If you are scheduled to have your surgery done on an out-patient basis it is important that you arrange for a responsible person to transport you home from the hospital. You should not drive a motor vehicle for the first 24 hours after a general anesthetic. Although you may feel awake and alert, your coordination and reaction time may still be impaired.

Pre-Operative Instructions

  • No food or drink is to be consumed after midnight the night before your surgery. The reason for this is that the process of anesthesia can cause the contents of the stomach to be vomited into the mouth, thereupon some of this fluid can trickle down into the lungs and cause a type of pneumonia. Fasting after midnight is of great help in decreasing the volume of fluid within the stomach, thus lessening the chances of this occurring.
  • If you regularly take medications, please consult with your anesthesia specialist about what you should take after midnight. In the case of small infants and children, your anesthesia specialist can give you specific instructions regarding the appropriate time to stop feeding.
  • Family and friends should be advised to wait in the lobby where they can be contacted regarding your progress. They should check-in with the information desk and inform the receptionist of their whereabouts, especially if they happen to leave the area.
  • We are here to make your stay at AHSC as comfortable as possible. If you have further questions regarding anesthesia, please let us know at any time.