I thought it might be helpful to describe what to expect, from an Anesthesiologist point of view, on the day of your surgery. It’s a big day for you. A day you have probably been thinking about for a long time. It is completely normal to be nervous, excited, anxious, and even calm. Different people react differently to unknown situations. My hope is to arm you with knowledge about what to expect. It should help to ease some of the anxiety you may have. I am going to walk you through a day in the life of a patient at Wayzata Plastic Surgery.
Typically we ask patients to arrive an hour before their scheduled operation. You will meet with one of our nurses who will do your intake. This is similar to being admitted at a hospital except it doesn’t take hours to accomplish or require loads of paperwork. Next, you will meet with me, your Anesthesiologist. I will take a short history, explain what type of anesthetic you will be having and answer any questions you have about the sleeping portion of your day. No questions are “dumb questions” and I am happy to spend as much time as needed to help you feel comfortable with the process. Being a bit of a control freak myself, I know how difficult it is to give up that sense of control and let someone who was a complete stranger only minutes ago, take care of you in your most vulnerable state. I have been on the other side as a patient and it is not an easy thing. After we are done talking, your surgeon will visit with you and answer any remaining questions you have about the surgery.
During your time in the preoperative room we ask that you stay nice and warm by using blankets and a space heater. When the nurse brings you into the operating room you will understand why this is so important. The operating room is kept very cold! This is not done intentionally to make you feel uncomfortable. There are a couple of good reasons for it. The first is for infection control. Infectious organisms cannot live in a cold environment so it is protective against postoperative infections. The other reason is your plastic surgeon and his assistants will be standing under hot lights in a large sterile robe for a long period of time and it keeps them comfortable.
Once you are in the room we will ask you to lie down on the operating room table. We will place warm blankets on you and introduce you to the any of the operating room staff you haven’t met yet. There will seem to be a flurry of activity as there are usually at least four people in the room and each of us has a job to do. I will work on getting a line placed in your arm to give you fluids and medications. I have a few tricks to help make the line placement less traumatic. If this is something you are worried about, please let me know when we meet. The nurses will put on several monitors. Booties will be placed on your feet to give you a massage during the surgery and to help to prevent blood clots.
Once I have taken your baseline vital signs, and everyone in the OR is ready, we will place a mask on your face that contains oxygen and ask you to take some nice big breaths. It’s time to go to sleep! I will give you medications thru the IV line to accomplish this and it typically takes about five to ten seconds for you to fall asleep. During the entire duration of your surgery I will be continuously monitoring your vital signs and giving you medications to keep you asleep, reduce your pain, and prevent postoperative nausea.
Once your surgery is complete I will gradually wake you. It is common to feel as if no time has passed because patients don’t typically dream. It will seem as if you were asleep for a second or two, regardless of the length of the surgery. You may also be surprised by how good you feel upon waking. We are lucky here at Wayzata Plastic Surgery that we are not obligated to give the cheapest anesthetic. We give the best anesthetic, using the best medications, and that usually means quite a different experience upon waking than you may have had with previous surgeries performed at a hospital. In fact, most patients with a history of nausea and vomiting postoperatively are amazed that they can go to sleep here and wake up feeling great. A recovery nurse will stay with you until you feel ready to sit up, get in a wheelchair, and head for home.
That’s all there is to it! Hopefully having some “inside information” will help ease your nerves when your surgery day finally arrives! Until then, I’ll look forward to meeting you in person. Annie Burton, MD (Your Anesthesiologist) September, 2010