Anesthesiology, also spelled anaesthesiology, anaesthesia or anaesthetics is the medical speciality concerned with the total perioperative care of patients before, during and after surgery. To produce anesthesia, anesthesiologists use drugs called anesthetics. General anesthesia affects the whole body, making patients unconscious and unable to move. General anesthetics are administered either directly into the bloodstream (intravenously) or as an inhaled gas. General anesthesia delivered intravenously will act quickly and disappear rapidly from the body. This allows patients to go home sooner after surgery. Inhaled anesthetics may take longer to wear off.
Anesthesiologists are doctors who carefully monitor patients throughout surgery and during recovery. They use highly advanced electronic devices that constantly display patients’ blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, heart function, and breathing patterns. These devices have dramatically improved the safety of general anesthesia. They also make it possible to operate on many patients who used to be considered too sick to have surgery.
Some of the most popular journals in the field of Anesthesiology that anesthesiologist might read include:
- Anesthesiology (journal)
- European Journal of Anaesthesiology
- Journal of Clinical Anesthesia
- Anesthesia & Analgesia
- Current Opinion in Anesthesiology
- Anaesthesia (journal)
- British Journal of Anaesthesia
Anesthesiologists also provide pain relief for less invasive procedures, such as those used to examine blood vessels and internal organs (endoscopy) and during labor and delivery. As experts in pain management, anesthesiologists may advise patients and their doctors on how to manage pain.
Like all medical doctors, anesthesiologists earn a college degree, often in a life sciences field, then a medical degree (M.D. or D.O.). After that, they complete a 4-year residency program in anesthesiology. Many also train for an additional year or more in a specialty such as pain management, pediatric anesthesiology, or critical care medicine.
Knowing how anesthetics affect pain and consciousness could also lead to new treatments for conditions that affect consciousness, such as epilepsy or coma. Studies of anesthesia may even help us better understand the nature of consciousness itself.
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