Anesthesiology: roles and patient management

Anesthesiology could be defined as the branch of medicine dedicated to pain relief and patient care before, during and after surgery. It is a multidisciplinary medical speciality that has made enormous progress in the last 40 years and is continuously evolving.


16 October 1846 can be considered the birth of anesthesiology. On that day, the removal of a tumour in the body was performed painlessly by the patient after inhaling this ether vapour supplied by William Thomas Green Morton (Massachusetts, 1819-1868).

What does the Anesthesiologist do?

Today, the specialty includes many other areas of practice in addition to the operating theatre, including pain management and the management of critically ill patients and emergency situations both inside and outside the surgical area.

Thus, the role of the anesthesiologist is not limited to “putting the patient to sleep”. They are responsible for protecting the patient’s vital functions by ensuring that the surgical intervention causes as little harm as possible. In addition, they are responsible for diagnosing and treating any medical incidents that arise during the operation and/or immediate postoperative period. They are responsible for continuing this care once the operation is completed until they ensure that the patient is able to leave the post-surgical recovery area and return to the hospital ward.

Main functions of the Anesthetist in patients

  1. Pain management and protection of the patient from surgical aggression (before, during and after surgery) by matching the needs of the individual patient with the requirements of the anesthesia. In some cases this is not an easy task, as patients may present multiple pathologies. Ensuring their well-being during surgery is often a challenge for anesthesiologists.
  2. Pain management in the obstetric patient. The anesthesiologist is the only specialist with the capacity to perform epidurals or use other means to manage pain in patients during labour. His presence is also essential in the operating theatre if a caesarean section is required. The anesthesiologist is also prepared to assist in the resuscitation of the newborn, if necessary.
  3. Maintenance of vital functions in organ donor patients. This is of vital importance, as the viability of organs often depends on the proper management of the donor patient during organ explant.
  4. Treatment of pain of any cause. Both acute and chronic. Anesthesiologists run pain units in many hospitals, helping many patients every day to improve their pain and, therefore, their quality of life
  5. Sedation in special units for both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures (gastroscopy, colonoscopy, MRI).
  6. Resuscitation of patients both in hospital and at the scene of the accident.

Management of critical patients

Both in the operating theatre and in resuscitation units. One of the most demanded functions of anesthesiologists during the harsh healthcare crisis generated by COVID-19 that we are currently experiencing. Currently, in most hospitals, anesthesiologists are collaborating with intensivists in the management of critically ill patients in order to try to relieve pressure in the ICU.

Anesthesiology is always seeking to ensure the utmost safety of patients

When a patient is to undergo surgery, the anesthesiologist assesses patients prior to the operation in the pre-anesthesia consultation. The aim is to obtain as much information as possible about the patient (diseases, current medication, allergies, surgical history, etc.). In this way, it is possible to optimise their situation in order to ensure the greatest possible safety during the perioperative period.

In addition, during the consultation, the patient is adequately informed about the anesthetic options as well as their risks. During the interview, patients can express any doubts they may have.

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