Anesthesiologists (left to right) Simon Body, MBChB, MPH; Stanton Shernan, MD; and Wendy Gross, MD, help take care of patients before, during, and after surgery.

Many people picture the anesthesiologist as a person who induces sleep or numbness for a medical or surgical procedure. While this is true, it’s actually a small part of the role played by an anesthesiologist.

In fact, anesthesiologists are vital to a patient’s overall care. Prior to a procedure, they typically meet as part of the clinical team to discuss the patient’s overall condition and any medical concerns, the technique to be performed, and ways to avoid potential complications. During the procedure, the anesthesiologist keeps careful watch over the patient, delivering medications, mechanical breathing support, and other critical care as necessary to make sure that the body is functioning well. Afterward, the anesthesiologist monitors the patient’s progress in the intensive care unit and recovery to manage any discomfort or other issues.

Many anesthesiologists have specialized expertise. Cardiac anesthesiologists, for example, work as part of teams that treat patients with serious heart disease. These patients often undergo procedures that can carry high risks, and an anesthesiologist is prepared to address situations ahead of time.

“An anesthesiologist is really the patient’s sentinel and advocate,” said Stanton K. Shernan, MD, Director of the Cardiac Anesthesia Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We take into consideration all aspects of the patient’s medical history to develop a plan for the patient’s care before, during, and after a procedure.”

Cardiac anesthesiologists at BWH support the development and introduction of new treatment techniques. Patients with multiple complex medical conditions, for example, often aren’t candidates for traditional surgery. In these cases, cardiac anesthesiologists support procedures performed outside the traditional operating room, such as in catheterization procedure areas for minimally invasive treatment.

Want to learn more about anesthesiologists? Check out this resource:

– Jessica F

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