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A world leader in regional anesthesiology
and acute pain medicine for orthopedics

What to Expect from Surgical Anesthesia

Before Surgery

You will meet your anesthesiologist before surgery. At that time, he or she will review your medical history and evaluate the needs of your specific procedure to determine what type of anesthesia is best for your procedure. At this time, your anesthesiologist will also make sure you are ready for the operation.

As you prepare for your surgery, it is essential that you let your anesthesiologist and surgeon’s office know about the following:

If you have questions or concerns related to your anesthesia or postoperative pain, please call the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care & Pain Management to set up a pre-anesthetic consultation with our on-call anesthesiologist.

Once your anesthesiologist and surgeon have cleared you for surgery, you will be transported to the operating room. In some cases, you will receive anesthetic medications (such as intravenous sedation) before being transported into the room.

During Surgery

Your anesthesiologist or a member of the anesthesia care team — a resident, a fellow, or a certified nurse anesthetist (CRNA) — will remain with you throughout the entire surgery. This anesthesia provider will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and level of awareness during surgery and make adjustments to your anesthetic mediations as necessary.

Depending on the procedure, some patients may have the option to choose the level of sedation they prefer – this is a decision made by the anesthesiologist and surgeon. There are several levels of sedation available for some procedures, but there is almost always an option to be fully sedated. These options will be reviewed with you before the surgery beings during the pre-surgical consultation.

After Surgery

As soon as you wake from your anesthesia, an operating room team member will alert your family and/or care providers in the waiting room. One family member, and in the case of pediatric patients, both parents and/or guardians, will be able to visit with you in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) at this time.

If you are scheduled for an outpatient surgery, you will be discharged to home once the anesthesia has worn off and you have been cleared by your anesthesiologist. If you are scheduled for an inpatient surgery, you will be discharged to an inpatient hospital room. If there are concerns about your body’s response to either the surgery or anesthesia, you will remain in the PACU where an anesthesiologist will manage your care until you are ready to move to a regular hospital room. In some cases, mostly spine surgeries, you may be placed under the supervision of physicians from our Critical Care Team.

Postoperative Pain

The goal of postoperative pain management is help manage pain caused by surgery so that it does not distract you from your daily activities and enables you to function and participate with physical therapy. It is to be expected that orthopedic surgery will result in some postoperative pain. To eliminate pain entirely after surgery would require complete anesthesia and would slow down your long-term recovery.

Your pain is managed in various ways immediately after surgery. The Acute Pain Service, a physician-led team focused on immediate postoperative pain, may check in with you during the initial phase of your recovery in the PACU and hospital room. These providers help manage your pain management medications according to your specific levels of pain.

As the pain lessens in the days following surgery, you will be switched to oral medications. Depending on the procedure, your surgeon may prescribe for medication for pain control to be taken after you leave the hospital. If you have any concerns about your recovery, please contact your surgeon’s office.

Learn more about what to expect as you prepare for surgery at HSS.


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