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Anesthesiology is a medical specialty devoted to relieving pain and ensuring the safety and well-being of patients during surgical, medical or obstetrical procedures. Physicians who practice anesthesiology are referred to as anesthesiologists.

Anesthesiologists have specialized training and expertise in the use of medications that produce anesthesia, or a state of having no sensation or pain. Anesthesia medications include drugs that block or reduce pain signals to the brain and drugs that cause relaxation or sedation (sleepiness). There are four main types of anesthesia:

  • Local anesthesia - use of a drug to numb a small area of the body, such as a finger
  • Regional anesthesia - use of a drug to block pain over a larger area of the body, such as a leg or the lower abdomen; another drug may also be given to help a person relax
  • General anesthesia - use of drugs to create a state of controlled unconsciousness, with pain blocked throughout the body and the person in a deep sleep
  • Conscious sedation - use of drugs to create a state of semi-consciousness, with pain blocked throughout the body and the person in a light sleep

Whenever the care of a patient calls for the use of more than local anesthesia, an anesthesiologist is likely to be involved. For patients undergoing surgery, the anesthesiologist's role begins before, continues during and extends after the operation. Prior to surgery, the anesthesiologist conducts a thorough evaluation, including an assessment of a patient's prior experience with anesthesia and any health conditions, to ensure a safe and effective anesthesia plan individualized to the patient and the surgical procedure. During surgery, the anesthesiologist ensures effective pain relief and patient safety while monitoring the function of vital body systems and managing any problems that may arise. After surgery, the anesthesiologist continues to manage the patient's pain while making sure the patient emerges safely from the effects of anesthesia.

While their most familiar role is played in the operating room, anesthesiologists also are involved in the care of patients undergoing many diagnostic and treatment procedures, such as endoscopy, colonoscopy, cardiac catheterization, and angioplasty -- to name just a few. In addition, their expertise in pain management makes anesthesiologists frequent members of care teams for patients with severe pain following an injury or major surgery or with chronic or cancer-related pain. Finally, during childbirth, anesthesiologists provide pain relief for the mother while helping monitor and manage vital organ functions in mom and baby.

Anesthesiology and Chester County Hospital

For more information about anesthesiologists on the Medical Staff at Chester County Hospital in West Chester, PA, call our Physician Referral Service at 800-789-PENN (7366) or visit the Find a Doctor section of our website.

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