MARQUETTE -Watching an anesthesiologist work is a fascinating thing. They work with a team of medical experts and surgeons, multitasking between operating rooms, zipping into one room to put a patient under, then going to the next room to wake a patient up.
When it comes to putting a patient under for surgery, each person is unique, so anesthesiologists develop a plan specifically for each patient, based on the their weight, age and medical condition. The anesthesiologist delivers the anesthetic, and also wakes them up safely.
But the job of an anesthesiologist is more than just in the operating room.
Nurses assist anesthesiologist Dr. Greg Ghiardi while he administers anesthesia to a patient before surgery. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
"When someone comes in for surgery we work with other specialists as well as the surgeon. If patients have risk factors such as asthma, high blood pressure or diabetes, we make sure to get them under control," said Dr. Greg Ghiardi, an anesthesiologist at Marquette General Hospital.
According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan suffers from some of the highest rates of illness and disease in the country. Ghiardi is especially aware of this, as disease increases the risk of complications during anesthesia.
The American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Michigan Society of Anesthesiologists recently launched a public education campaign to put patients' minds at ease about surgical procedures and the associated risks of anesthesia.
"It's important that people understand that as anesthesiologists, we are physicians," said Ghiardi. "Not a lot is known about what anesthesiologists do and the role that we play in surgical care," he added.
While surgeons focus on structural problems, it is the anesthesiologist that is responsible for the medical health of the patient, pre- and post-op, said Dr. Craig Coccia, neurosurgeon at MGH.
"Anesthesiologists have anywhere from 8-10 years of medical education, and have a broader training for overall management of a patient," said Coccia.
"They are able to anticipate problems that I as a surgeon appreciate," he added, "They really excel in preventing those issues."
MGH works within a medical setting called the Patient Centered Medical Home, which facilitates partnerships between the patient and a team of medical specialists working together, said Coccia. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, a diabetes therapist would be included in the medical team.
Anesthesiologists are an integral part of that team.
Referring to anesthesiologists and the choices they make on a daily basis, Coccia compared anesthesiology to being a pilot, or a sailor.
"It's like flying a plane, or sailing," he said. "It's anticipating the problem and avoiding the problem."
"We recognize when a patient goes in for surgery, it's one of the most vulnerable times in one's life," said Ghiardi. "We are physicians and are trained to deal with problems in surgery. We make surgery as risk free and pain free and as pleasant an experience as possible," he said.
Rest assured, in the last two decades anesthesiology has become one of the safest practices, said Coccia.
Danielle Pemble can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 256.