Beyond the Operating Room: The Multifaceted Role of Today’s Anesthesiologists

Anesthesiology occupies an interesting place in the medical landscape: most people are familiar with the concept, but few realize how involved anesthesiologists are in other aspects of modern medicine.

To the average patient, the role of an anesthesiologist is simple: we’re the doctors who “put you to sleep” before surgery!

Anesthesiology and perioperative care

The practice of helping a patient drift off to “sleep” before a procedure is called general anesthesia. Administering general anesthesia to patients is just one part of what we refer to as perioperative care, which is the care provided to patients before, during, and after surgery.

If you’ve had surgery that required general or local anesthesia, the perioperative aspects of anesthesiology will be familiar to you.

Things like developing an anesthetic plan with the patient and surgeon, monitoring the patient during the procedure, and assisting the patient with post-surgical pain management all fall under the umbrella of perioperative care.

Perioperative anesthesiology is crucial to successful surgical outcomes, as it helps ensure that the patient remains comfortable and safe throughout the procedure.

Nerve blocks, childbirth and more

Anesthesiologists also play a pivotal role in several other medical functions. We put in nerve blocks, central lines, and arterial catheters. We must be able to secure airways and perform pressure management, ensuring that a patient remains stable.

We’re fixtures in the delivery room, providing critical pain relief from contractions and monitoring the patient through successful childbirth. We provide general anesthesia in the radiology department to help patients remain completely still during imaging.

We work in the cardiology department as well, providing sedation during diagnostic procedures or general anesthesia during heart surgery.

Modern anesthesiology and pain management

At a basic level, the goal of anesthesia is to prevent the patient from feeling pain, whether it’s local anesthesia during a skin biopsy or general anesthesia for open-heart surgery.

As the field of medicine continues to learn more about the complexities of pain, it has become increasingly important to have physicians who combine specialized knowledge of the physiology of pain with the skills needed to treat complicated pain problems. The catch-all term for this concept is “pain management.”

Some of the more exciting recent advancements in anesthesiology have been in the field of pain management, specifically in assisting patients dealing with chronic, long-term pain.

Due to the opioid epidemic, we’re seeing the end of the days of handing out narcotics prescriptions for smaller procedures — but these patients still need help dealing with the pain. This has led to more innovative, non-traditional treatments, encouraging a new approach to pain management.

Offering relief to patients who have been suffering for a long time is one of the more rewarding parts of working in anesthesiology, whether it’s in the operating room or in clinical setting.

The South Shore Health Pain Management Clinic

At the Pain Management Clinic, anesthesiologists are able to work one-on-one with patients who are looking for a solution to their pain. That pain could be caused by any number of factors, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, post-trauma pain, or chronic pain from multiple conditions, as was the case for Pam Quimby-Montanino.

In those situations, we collaborate with a primary care physician to develop a pain management plan suited for each individual patient. We then work with the patient to execute that plan and to provide as much pain relief as possible.

While the treatments performed at the Pain Management Clinic may not have the same degree of urgency as anesthetic services in the operating room, they can be even more rewarding. Oftentimes patients at the Pain Management Clinic have been dealing with debilitating pain for months, if not years, so their quality of life is being severely impacted.

We get to meet with these patients on a regular basis, allowing us to develop relationships with them as we guide them on their journey to living life as pain-free as they can. Innovative treatments like pain pumps, nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulation, and steroid injections can provide hope and relief for patients where other treatments were unsuccessful.

Different tactics, same goal

Like most aspects of modern medicine, the field of anesthesiology is never boring. Anesthesiologists are faced with unique challenges every day, from the operating room to non-acute settings.     

Whether that challenge is assisting with a Caesarean section for a first-time mom-to-be or providing relief from a chronic back problem, the goal remains the same: to help patients get through a procedure comfortably and safely.

Learn more about South Shore Health’s Pain Management Clinic. Meet Dr. Juric by watching his video profile below!