Anaesthesiologists are important because they ensure patients undergoing surgery are safely and consistently sedated throughout their operation. Without anaesthesiologists, patients would experience the pain and distress of live operations without the relief of sedation or anaesthesia.
Anaesthesia is distinguished from sedation and regional anaesthesia. Anaesthesia causes patients to lose consciousness and is often referred to as ‘being put under’ or being ‘put to sleep’. In contrast, sedation allows patients to retain consciousness but makes them calm and unaware of what is occurring around them. Regional anaesthesia targets specific parts of the body to numb areas of the body for pain control during procedures. A common regional anaesthetic is an epidural given to pregnant women during labour to numb sensations from the lower back downwards.
An anesthesiologist will begin work with a patient by first establishing an anaesthetic plan with them. They will make sure the patient is ready for the operation and assess whether the operation is scheduled at an appropriate and safe time in the patient’s life. An anaesthesiologist’s first priority is to ensure the patient experiences the operation safely and with as little pain as possible. If a patient is dangerously ill or mentally unstable at the time the operation is planned, the anesthesiologist may recommend that the procedure be postponed or cancelled if need be.
Post-operation care is also the domain of an anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist manages pain medication and sedation for pain control. They can administer intravenous pain medication or apply local anaesthetic on the area causing pain.
For people in the final stages of their lives, anesthesiologists are also important healthcare providers. Palliative medicine requires anaesthesiologists to relieve the suffering of terminal patients and sedate those who experience psychological distress due to their circumstances.