The operation theatre is under the control of the Department of Anaesthesia. For any surgical procedure, anaesthesia is mandatory, otherwise the pain experienced by the patient would not allow the surgeon to perform the operation. Before any patient is considered for surgery the anaesthetist does a pre-anaesthetic check-up, which is used to assess the patient’s fitness to withstand the stress of anaesthesia and surgery.
The patient will meet with the anaesthetist prior to the surgery to discuss the type of anaesthesia he or she will receive and what to expect before, during and after the anaesthetic is administered.
Based on the surgeon or patient’s requirements, the administered anaesthesia type can be either general or regional (epidural/spinal/peripheral/neural block).
The term epidural is often short for epidural anaesthesia, a form of regional anaesthesia involving the injection of drugs through a catheter placed into the epidural space. The injection can cause both a loss of sensation (anaesthesia) and a loss of pain (analgesia), by blocking the transmission of pain signals through nerves in or near the spinal cord. Epidural analgesia is usually required for pain relief for women in labour.
After successful surgery the patient is kept in the recovery room for observation till he/she recovers fully from the effects of anaesthesia and can be sent back to the ward for further medical care. The anaesthetist provides medication for acute pain relief. PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) is routinely used where pain killers are administered by the patient himself through a special pump, which will be pre-programmed by the anaesthetist.
The anaesthetist has a major role to play in the intensive care unit especially in the care of surgical patients and for those who require mechanical ventilation and other invasive procedures.