Demystifying anesthesia to put patients at ease

A guest column by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, exclusive to

As patient safety advocates responsible for monitoring vital signs, managing pain and safeguarding a patient’s overall health through the surgical process, anesthesiologists are committed to informing patients about the anesthesia experience. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and the Michigan Society of Anesthesiologists (MSA) have launched a new public education campaign to help patients better prepare and put their mind at ease about undergoing anesthesia.

As Michigan’s Governor Snyder said recently, the issue of health and wellness in his state is at a critical juncture and should be one of our highest public policy priorities. As a physician trained to administer anesthesia, I am acutely aware of the link between an individual’s overall health and wellness, and how that impacts medical and surgical procedures. Medical conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea and heart disease can have serious implications for patients requiring surgery and anesthesia.

That is precisely why the campaign is under way to make sure patients and their caregivers are informed about the risks of undergoing anesthesia and the value of having an anesthesiologist involved in patient care. Beyond four years of medical school, anesthesiologists have an additional four to five years of advanced training as an anesthesiology resident that allows us to work with patients to help prevent complications during surgery. We are prepared to make split-second decisions to save lives if complications occur.

For most patients, their anesthesia experience will be routine. Some might compare anesthesiologists’ work to that of a pilot. Most airline flights are routine – with little complication or concern. However, sometimes unforeseen issues arise and you want someone who is trained to manage it. Like pilots on airplanes, anesthesiologists fill this role in operating rooms.

As an anesthesiologist, it is my job to make sure you go in and out of surgery safely. If I have done my job right, I will put both your mind and body at ease during surgery. I encourage you to ask who is responsible for your care while undergoing surgery and what their training is … your life may depend upon it.

To learn more about the campaign and the value of having an anesthesiologist involved in your medical care, please visit

Kenneth Elmassian is President of the Michigan Society of Anesthesiologists. 

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