FAQs about Anesthesia

Is anesthesia safe?

Anesthesia can be administered safely, even to patients with serious health problems, with few complications and only minor side effects. During the last twenty years scientific advances have led to more sophisticated monitoring devices and better anesthetic drugs which have dramatically improved anesthetic safety.

What are the risks?

Among medical specialities, anesthesia is the safest. Fewer than 1 out of 300,000 patients has a fatal outcome with modern anesthesia. However, even when anesthesia is carefully and competently administered, serious and potentially life-threatening complications may very rarely occur.

What kind of anesthesia will I be given?

You will most likely have one of three kinds of anesthesia during surgery. Monitored Anesthesia Care (MAC) is often used for surgery that is short and does not require the surgeon to cut muscle or bone. Sedatives and painkillers are given through an IV. The area around the surgical site is numbed with a local anesthetic. You may choose to remain awake or sleep lightly. If you are uncomfortable, your anesthesiologist can usually make you sleepier or the surgeon can inject more local anesthesia.

Regional anesthesia is often used for surgery on the arms, legs, lower abdomen and during childbirth. A local anesthetic is injected to block nerve impulses in a nerve or group of nerves coming from the site of the surgical procedure. The area will begin to feel numb within minutes. Sedatives are typically administered through an IV catheter. With regional anesthesia, you may remain awake or choose to sleep lightly. 

General anesthesia is most often used for more extensive surgery, such as abdominal, heart, brain or chest surgery. With general anesthesia, you are unconscious throughout the surgery.

In certain situations a combination of general and regional anesthesia may be appropriate.

Following your pre-anesthetic evaluation, your anesthesia professional will recommend an anesthetic choice specific to your case, taking into account your health status and preference as well as the nature of the surgical procedure.

What is an Intravenous (IV) catheter?

After adults are prepared for surgery an IV catheter will be inserted. This helps us deliver anesthesia into your bloodstream, as well as supply fluid therapy and administer medications. Children may also require IV catheters, but they are put to sleep beforehand.

Will I have pain when I wake up?

Most surgical anesthetics provide some relief of postoperative pain because narcotics (pain killers) are often given as part of the anesthetic. When you arrive in the recovery room, you may require more medication. If you experience pain, let your nurse know immediately.

Will I experience any nausea?

Some patients experience nausea after anesthesia and/or surgery. This may be related to the surgical procedure, the anesthetic itself or other factors. If you have experienced this after a previous surgery or anesthetic, it is important to tell us so that appropriate medication can be given. If you experience motion sickness, be sure to let us know.

What causes a spinal headache?

During regional anesthesia, when the spinal needle passes through the membrane that contains the fluid surrounding the spinal cord, it may create a passage for spinal fluid to leak out. If enough of the fluid leaks out, you may experience a headache. Thanks to the improved design of today's spinal needles, this is rare. Epidural anesthesia is performed with a larger needle than spinal anesthesia and the medicine is placed outside the membrane holding the spinal fluid. The likelihood of headache is higher if the epidural needle should puncture the membrane. If you develop a severe headache, the anesthesiologist can place a sterile blood patch with the patient's own blood to seal the leak.

What are the risks for my child during anesthesia?

As with adults, the administration of anesthesia, even to very small babies with serious health problems, is generally safe and without many side effects.

The risks of anesthesia in children are similar to those for adults, although the nature of anesthetic complications may differ. Respiratory complications may be more frequent in children than adults. Discuss your concerns about the risks associated with anesthesia in your child’s case with us.

How will my child go to sleep?

With younger children, we most often have them breathe oxygen and anesthesia gases through a mask. Flavored masks are usually available. The older child may select an IV because it is a faster way to go to sleep. If the older child is afraid of the IV catheter insertion, an inhalation induction is the most common option.

What will you do if my child is anxious before surgery?

Medication is available that can sedate your child after you are at our facility and before the application of any operating room anesthetic. Pre-medication can be given by mouth or through an IV catheter. 

Many parents ask to be with their child in the operating room when the child falls asleep. This is possible only at some facilities and with some situations. We will be happy to discuss this with you.

“Everything was explained beforehand.” – 34 year old female, inpatient procedure 


“It was a wonderful experience.” – Marilyn, 2013 Patient Survey