Frequently Asked Anesthesia Questions

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is defined as the loss of feeling or sensation – with or without the loss of consciousness. In reality, it does more. In addition to placing you in a comfortable state during surgery, anesthesia controls the body’s reaction to stress and relieves the fear and anxiety almost always associated with surgery.

Why can’t I eat or drink before elective surgery?

We are interested foremost in your safety. Coming to surgery with food or liquid in your stomach puts you at increased risk for serious condition called “Aspiration Pneumonia” (from inhaling vomit into your lungs). This can be a lethal complication of surgery and anesthesia. The period required for fasting depends on what you ate and/or drank, your current medical conditions (e.g., reflux disease), and the urgency of your operation. You will be given instructions regarding not eating or drinking before your operation or procedure . . . follow them!

How long do I have to suffer without food and drink?

As a general rule we expect patients to not eat any solid food for 8 hours prior to elective surgery and no fluids for 6 hours prior to elective surgery to be maximally safe, but again it depends on a variety of factors. It is important to take some of your medications even though you are fasting. These should be taken with a sip of water. You will be instructed which of your medicines you should take on your day of surgery.

Are there different kinds of anesthesia?

Yes. The general categories of anesthesia are “General Anesthesia,” “Regional Anesthesia,” or “Monitored Anesthesia Care” (MAC). Refer to more complete descriptions under the Types of Anesthesia page on this website.

What are the risks of anesthesia?

There are risks associated with all types of medical procedures. There is a listing of the potential complications of all anesthetic types on our Anesthesia Consent Form that you can download from this website. (See also General Anesthetic Complications and Side-effects and Complications of Regional Anesthesia) You should ask your provider specific questions about how these potential complications figure into your risk/benefit profile for the procedure and your underlying medical problems.

What is the likelihood of nausea/vomiting?

Nausea/vomiting is the most common side effect of surgery and anesthesia. General anesthetics statistically result in nausea approximately 20% of the time. Risk factors for nausea include those susceptible to motion sickness or with a prior history of nausea after procedures, female gender, gynecologic or abdominal surgery, inner ear or eye surgery, diabetes, pregnancy and obesity. We have several drugs available to treat prophylactically (before the procedure) if you are at risk. If you feel nauseated after your surgery we will aggressively treat it.