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What is anesthesiology?

Anesthesiology is the medical specialty that focuses on pain relief and the complete care of people before, during and after surgery.

Before surgery, an anesthesiologist decides on the type and amount of anesthesia to use, based on the person's medical condition, response to anesthesia, and the requirements of the surgery or procedure.

During surgery, the anesthesiologist monitors heart rate and rhythm, breathing, blood pressure, body temperature, and body fluid balance and controls levels of pain and unconsciousness.

After surgery, the anesthesiologist monitors recovery and, in most cases, decides when it's safe for the person to go to his or her hospital room or home. He or she also helps decide what kind of pain relief a person will need after surgery.

Anesthesiologists also prescribe medications for short-term, long-term, cancer-related and childbirth pain. They may manage the care in critical care units and help stabilize and prepare people for emergency surgery.

After completing medical school, anesthesiologists spend an additional four years training specifically in anesthesiology. Some doctors spend even more time training in a subspecialty, such as pediatrics, geriatrics, obstetrics, critical care, cardiovascular or neurosurgical anesthesia.

For more information on anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists website.

Reviewed 11/28/2023

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