A Patient’s Guide to Anesthesia

Understanding your anesthetic care can seem daunting at first. This guide can help you with a basic understanding. Your clinicians can give you a more in-depth understanding of your personal anesthetic care. Talk with your anesthesia care team. Ask questions. Discuss any concerns you might have about your anesthetic care.

Your Anesthesia Care Team


Your anesthesia care team could include both an anesthesiologist and a certified registered nurse anesthestist

Your anesthesia care team is comprised of an anesthesiologist, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, or both.

Anesthesiologists are highly skilled physicians who complete a four-year college program, four years of medical school, and four additional years of internship and anesthesiology residency. 

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs)are skilled advanced practice nurses who complete a four-year college program and have, at minimum, a master's degree in the practice of anesthesia with a background in critical care nursing. Many CRNAs also have a doctorate degree.

Your anesthesia care team is responsible for your comfort and well-being before, during, and after your surgical procedure. In the operating room, your anesthesia provider manages vital functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, heart rhythm, body temperature, and breathing. The anesthesia provider is also
responsible for fluid and blood replacement (if necessary). With your safety in mind, he or she will regulate the anesthetic so that youare as comfortable as possible when you wake up. 

What to Expect Before, During, and After Surgery

A doctor explaining the process in-depth to a patient
It is important to follow all instructions provided by your anesthesia care team

Preoperative Interview

During a preoperative visit in the days leading up to or on the day of your procedure, an anesthesia provider will evaluate your medical condition, including your medical history and current medications. Please tell your anesthesia provider if you or a member of your family has ever had problems with anesthesia in the past (this includes any history of nausea or vomiting). You should also inform your anesthesia provider of any dental issues. The anesthetic choices, risks, and benefits will be discussed. It is extremely important that you follow all directions regarding which medications you should or should not take before your surgical procedure, as well as fasting instructions.

The Day of Surgery

It is extremely important that you follow all directions regarding which medications you should or should not take before your surgical procedure, as well as when you should stop eating and drinking. Be sure to have a responsible adult with you at the facility to drive you home after the procedure.

Anesthesia Options - Your anesthesia provider, in talking with you and your surgeon, will determine which type of anesthesia is safest for you. Depending on the type of surgery and your health status, you may have several options for the type of anesthesia used during your procedure.

  • General Anesthesia

    A type of anesthesia provided through a mask, IV, or advanced airway device that results in loss of sensation and consciousness. This form of anesthesia is typically utilized for more invasive surgical procedures.

  • Spinal/Epidural Anesthesia

    A spinal is an injection given around the spinal cord to allow numbing of the body from the rib cage down to your toes. An epidural uses a small tube that will allow continuous dosing of the anesthesia medication.

  • Regional Anesthesia

    This is an injection of medication near a cluster of nerves that results in a loss of sensation to a region of the body. This form of anesthesia is often accompanied by sedation through an IV to provide relaxation during the surgical procedure.

  • Local/Monitored Anesthesia Care

    Your surgeon will inject local anesthetic to numb the small area that is being operated on and your anesthesia professional will give you sedation to relax you during the procedure.

During Surgery

Advanced technology is used to monitor your body’s functions. Your anesthesia care team will interpret these sophisticated monitors in order to appropriately diagnose, regulate, and treat your body while a personalized, delicate balance of anesthetic medications is administered.

Your team of anesthesia providers utilizes available resources during your anesthetic experience to optimize your safety and comfort. Remembering activities surrounding your procedure, such as immediately before or after an anesthetic, is a normal occurrence—especially with a Regional or Local Sedation Anesthetic. Patient awareness under General Anesthesia is an extremely rare event.

After Surgery

Your anesthesia care team will continue to monitor your condition in the recovery room
Your anesthesia care team will continue to monitor your condition in the recovery room

Your anesthesiologist is responsible for your care in the recovery room, often called the post anesthesia care unit (PACU). Specially trained nurses will monitor your condition and vital signs as the effects of the anesthesia wear off.

What can you expect?

• Some pain after a surgical procedure is normal. You will be given medications, as needed, to help control your pain.

• Side effects of anesthesia may include nausea and/or vomiting for which medication can be given, as needed, to help alleviate this side effect.

• It is not uncommon to feel weak or woozy after anesthesia.

• It is not uncommon to experience muscle aches or shivering.

• You may experience a sore throat for a couple of days if you had General Anesthesia.

• If you received a Regional Anesthetic, you may have a loss of sensation and movement in that region of the body for a period of time.

Anesthesia may remain in your system for up to 24 hours. Therefore, the following Do’s and Don’ts are important:

• Don’t drive a car or operate heavy equipment for 24hours.

• Don’t drink alcohol for 24hours.

• Don’t make any important decisions or sign legal documents for 24hours.

• Don’t smoke.

• Do drink plenty of fluids.

• Do eat food as tolerated.

• Do take pain medications if needed and as prescribed.

• Do rest quietly at home in the care of a friend or relative for 24hours. 

Other Questions You May Have

Question Answer

May I choose my anesthesia provider?

You usually have a choice in selecting your anesthesia provider. Your surgeon may refer you to a specific anesthesia provider or you may select one based on a personal recommendation or previous experience. However, you must communicate your choice in advance so that arrangements may be made to honor your request.

Will I receive a separate bill for anesthesia services?

Your anesthesia care team is made up of specialists, just like your surgeon or internist. You will be billed for the professional services of your anesthesiologist and/or your CRNA, as you would from your surgeon. Your hospital will charge separately for medications and equipment used during your surgery and anesthetic.

I have a question about my bill.

For any billing inquiries, please use our billing inquiries contact form

Is my personal information safe?

Protecting your personal information is important to NorthStar Anesthesia. Our HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices is available here.