Anesthesiologists (pronounced ăn’ĕs-thē’zē-ŏl’ō-jĭsts) are medical doctors who specialize in anesthesiology. Anesthesiology (pronounced ăn’ĕs-thē’zē-ŏl’ō-jē) is the study and use of medicines or combinations of medicines to produce a partial or complete loss of sensation and/or consciousness in patients. Anesthesiologists administer medications (called anesthetics, anesthetic agents, or anesthesia) to reduce pain caused by a medical condition or injury, or to manage and control pain during and after a medical procedure, such as surgery.

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There are several different types of anesthesia. The three main types are local anesthesia (reduces sensation in a small, specific area), regional anesthesia (reduces sensation in a larger region of the body, e.g., spinal, epidural), and general anesthesia (renders the patient unconscious). Anesthesia may be administered topically (as a spray, cream, or lotion), orally (by mouth), through an injection (e.g., into the skin, muscle, or spinal fluid), through a vein (intravenous, IV), as a suppository (inserted in the rectum, urethra, or vagina), or may be inhaled (breathed in). Anesthesiologists are highly skilled in all aspects of anesthesia.

Anesthesiologists have comprehensive knowledge in several different areas of medicine. Prior to administering anesthesia, the anesthesiologist must learn as much as possible about the patient’s personal history, family history, and medical condition (e.g., illness or injury). Anesthesiologists are responsible for monitoring their patients’ heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, body temperature, and other vital functions during medical procedures.

Anesthesiologists often work with other physicians (e.g., surgeons) and nurses as part of a health care team to monitor patients before, during, and after they receive anesthesia. They often work in hospitals and outpatient surgical centers. Anesthesiologists may supervise other anesthetists (pronounced ă-nĕs-thĕ-tĭsts) who also have advanced training in anesthesia (e.g., certified registered nurse anesthetist [CRNA]).

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 26 Feb 2009

Last Modified: 02 Sep 2015