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Anesthesiologists are physicians who play a significant role in surgery, and in other areas of medical treatment. Prior to surgery, anesthesiologists interview patients, take their medical history, and order necessary pre-operative tests. When warranted, anesthesiologists also have the responsibility to postpone the operation, if they do not find the patient ready for surgery. In this situation, anesthesiologists then work with the patient's other doctors to ensure that each patient is at their peak health prior to surgery to assure the best possible outcomes.
During surgery itself, from the first administration of the anesthetic, to the end of the procedure, they are “breath of life.” Their years of medical school and their extensive training in physiology and pharmacology ensure they are able to recognize and respond quickly to medical emergencies during surgery.
Once surgery is over, their responsibility extends to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), where they monitor patients during recovery from the anesthetic, and also provide post-operative (post-op) pain relief. In addition to their special role in surgery, anesthesiologists also provide sedation and pain relief for treatments/tests including MRIs and CAT scans, and bone marrow tests. They handle trauma cases in the ER, and provide pain relief to women in labor. They also diagnose and treat patients with chronic, acute and cancer pain. They perform research to develop better anesthetic agents and safer techniques for administering anesthesia.
Becoming an anesthesiologist requires:
• 4 years of college, including pre-med courses
• 4 years of medical school
• 4 years of anesthesia residency (including 1 year of internship)
• 1 year fellowship in a specialty area (optional)
During their careers, many anesthesiologists acquire additional training in specialty areas such as internal medicine, critical care and pain management which enhances their ability to serve as the patients’ guardian in the OR.