Anesthesia Patient-Provider Communication Essential to Safe Care

For Immediate Release
November 28, 2007
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American Association of Nurse Anesthetists underlines importance of open, honest communication before and after surgery


Park Ridge, Ill.—Patients should never be shy when it comes to discussing their anesthesia care with their anesthesia professional, both before and after surgery.
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) emphasizes open communication between patients and their anesthesia professional before and after surgery to help ensure a successful outcome and decrease the chance of complications such as anesthetic awareness, an experience depicted in its most extreme form in the upcoming movie "Awake."
Essential topics for patients to discuss with their anesthesia professional during the preoperative interview include the following:
  1. Ask important questions. Basically, any question you want to ask your anesthesia professional that will raise your comfort level as a surgical patient is fair game. For instance, ask who will be administering your anesthesia. Make sure your provider is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or board certified anesthesiologist. These healthcare providers have completed extensive educational programs and clinical training, and practice with the highest degree of professionalism.

  2. Leave no stone unturned. Be prepared to reveal pertinent personal information to your anesthesia professional, including prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and herbal remedies you are currently taking; previous surgeries; your family’s medical history; and confidential information concerning alcohol and recreational drug use. This information is critical for your anesthesia professional to prepare the safest anesthesia care plan possible on your behalf.

  3. Know what to expect. During the preoperative consultation, your anesthesia professional will discuss your anesthesia options and determine if you need to have general, regional, or local anesthesia. The decision will be based on a number of factors, including the type of surgical procedure you are about to undergo; your age and physical condition; the personal information you provide (see above); and more.

  4. Explore all possibilities. If you weren’t shy about asking your surgeon about details and possible side effects, then don’t be shy asking your anesthesia professional the same types of questions. Modern surgery is only possible thanks to the miracle of anesthesia, but anesthesia is not foolproof. Find out about anesthetic awareness, postoperative nausea and vomiting, and other possible side effects, and how you should prepare for your surgery and anesthesia to provide you with the best chance of avoiding complications.
Essential topics for patients to discuss with their anesthesia professional postoperatively include the following:
  1. The anesthesia experience. Your anesthesia professional should ask how you are feeling following your anesthesia care, and if you recall any events during the surgical procedure. While complications related to anesthesia are rare thanks to advancements in anesthesia drugs, monitoring technology, and provider education, they sometimes do occur. As a patient you should desire an open dialog with your anesthesia professional to help clear up any unanswered questions and unresolved feelings. If you believe you may have been "awake" during any part of the surgery and are troubled by the possibility, you should never hesitate to bring this to your anesthesia professional’s attention.
  1. Dos and don’ts. To ensure your safest and speediest recovery, thoroughly discuss your postoperative care plan with your anesthesia professional.
  1. Again, ask important questions. Anesthetic drugs can remain in the body for up to 24 hours after surgery, so a person’s system is not back to normal until they have been eliminated. It is never too late for you to ask questions, even after being discharged from the surgical facility.

To learn more about anesthesia, anesthetic awareness, what patients should do before and after surgery, and more, visit AANA's Anesthetic Awareness Information.