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HomeEducation and CareersEducation8 things to tell your physician anesthesiologist before surgery
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8 things to tell your physician anesthesiologist before surgery

Mar 16, 2019 - 16:53

There is no such thing as TMI (too much information) when it comes to communicating facts about your health with your physician anesthesiologist before surgery or a medical procedure. You might not think taking ginkgo biloba for memory, using medical marijuana for pain, smoking or snoring are relevant, but these supplements, drugs and conditions are among the eight things you should disclose for your own safety.

“Your physician anesthesiologist isn’t interested in judging you, but rather wants to provide the safest, most effective anesthesia and pain relief,” said Dr. Linda J. Mason, M.D., FASA, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). “Your safety is our priority and this information is essential so we can adjust your anesthesia and pain management to ensure the best outcome.”

Anesthesiology was the first medical specialty to focus on championing safety, and physician anesthesiologists have continued to lead the way in ensuring patients receive safe care. ASA urges patients to be forthcoming about their health information. Be sure to tell your physician anesthesiologist if you:

* Take anything for your health, including:

- Medications — Many medications can affect anesthesia or pain management. While some medications (such as blood pressure medications) should be continued even during surgery, others may need to be paused for a day or longer. Discuss all your medications so the physician anesthesiologist can determine the best course of action.

- Supplements — Certain supplements can interact with anesthesia. Many people take Ginkgo biloba to improve their memory or ginseng as an immune system booster, but both can increase the risk of bleeding. Tell your physician anesthesiologist what supplements you take and the dosage.

* Smoke. Smoking damages your heart and lungs, can lead to breathing problems during or after surgery, and increases your risk of: developing pneumonia; needing a ventilator to help you breathe after surgery; suffering a heart attack during or after surgery; and reducing blood flow, which slows healing and increases the chance of infection. Your physician anesthesiologist will likely ask you to stop smoking at least a week or more before the procedure.

* Use marijuana. Marijuana has a sedative affect and can interact with anesthesia, so tell your physician anesthesiologist if you partake, whether by eating edibles, smoking or other methods.

* Drink alcohol. More than two alcoholic drinks a day can increase your risk of side effects from anesthesia as well as affect the amount of anesthesia you’ll need. Your physician anesthesiologist needs to know if you drink and may request you abstain before surgery.

* Snore. If your snoring is caused by sleep apnea, anesthesia is riskier because sleep apnea slows breathing and increases sensitivity to side effects. Sleep apnea also can make it more difficult for you to regain consciousness after surgery, so the physician anesthesiologist may adjust the sedative, keep you in recovery longer and prescribe non-opioid pain medications.

* Have had heat stroke or suffered a stroke. If you or a family member have ever had heat stroke or suffered a stroke tell your physician anesthesiologist. Both can increase your risk of having a potentially deadly reaction to anesthesia called malignant hyperthermia, which causes muscle rigidity and a sudden high fever.

* Have had a reaction to anesthesia. It’s important to share if you’ve had a bad reaction to anesthesia during previous procedures. Your physician anesthesiologist will ask detailed questions about what happened to adjust your anesthesia and prevent it from recurring.

* Have chronic health issues. Many chronic health conditions can have repercussions for anesthesia, including diabetes, heart disease, allergies, liver or kidney disease, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity and seizures or other neurological disorders.

You should discuss these issues and any concerns you have when you talk to your physician anesthesiologist before surgery. For example, if you are concerned about taking opioids, your physician anesthesiologist can discuss alternatives.

To learn more about preparing for surgery, visit and download and print the Preparing for Surgery: An Anesthesia Checklist and The Path to a Safe Surgery: Preparing for Anesthesia Begins With You to take with you prior to surgery. To learn more about the critical role physician anesthesiologists play before, during and after surgery, visit

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