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Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

All patients are admitted to the PACU following surgery and anesthesia at HSS. While in the PACU their vital signs are monitored, pain management is initiated, and blood products and fluids may be administered.

These duties are performed by nurses who have extensive training in critical care. The nurses are under the direct supervision of an attending anesthesiologist who is in the hospital at all times.

The length of stay in the PACU for any patient is variable and dependent upon many factors. First, the patient must have demonstrated recovery from their anesthetic. If the patient has had an epidural or spinal anesthetic, they must be able to feel and move their legs before being discharged from the PACU.

Pain medicine will be initiated in the PACU. This may take the form of pills, injections or a "Pain Pump." The "Pain Pump" may be attached to the patient's intravenous or epidural. This technique is called PCA or "patient controlled analgesia" because the patient has a role in administering the medication. A patient's pain level must be manageable before they are discharged home or to the floor.

Patients who have lost blood during their surgery may receive blood products in the PACU. In many cases, this blood is donated by the patient prior to surgery.

Sometimes after surgery patients will require medications to control variations in their vital signs, such as blood pressure, heart rate, or respiratory rate. Patients will not be discharged from the PACU until their vital signs are stable. When patients have long or very involved operations, or they have many pre-existing medical problems, we may decide to "watch" them in the PACU for a period of time following their operation. The decision to remain in the PACU is made by the anesthesiologist, surgeon, and medical doctor. These patients benefit from the more intensive care and monitoring provided in the PACU.

Visitation is limited in the PACU to avoid the risk of infection to other patients and to permit the staff to concentrate on the care of these post surgical patients. For more information, please view the Hospital’s Visitation Policy.

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