Geriatric Anesthesia Q & A




Q: As an older patient, are there any specific complications and risks associated with anesthesia that I should be aware of?

A: All anesthetic techniques have some risks associated with them, but thanks to the medical advancements anesthesiologists have made, harmful events are rare. Sometimes, age can play a factor in these risks but, more importantly, factors such as your medical condition and the type of surgery you plan to have play a larger part.

Additionally, the medications you currently take for other conditions can also impact your procedure. It is important to consult a geriatric specialist before your surgery to help you understand the interaction of your current medications with those associated with the surgery. These specialists have specific experience managing geriatric patients before, during and after surgery.

It is important to remember that anesthesia is safer today that ever before. Your anesthesiologist takes precautions to prevent an accident from occurring just as you do when driving a car or crossing the street.

Q: Who will be my anesthesia provider?

A: The leader of the Anesthesia Care Team, an anesthesiologist, is a fully trained physician devoted solely to your well-being. Your team consists of anesthesiologists supervising qualified non-physician anesthesia providers and/or resident physicians in training who specialize in anesthesia care.

There are geriatric anesthesiologists who specialize in treating the senior patient. These specialists have specific experience managing a geriatric patient through the administration of anesthesia and monitoring his or her care before and after surgery.

Before, during and after your procedure, the members of your team will work to provide you with the best anesthesia experience possible.

Q: When can I speak with my anesthesiologist?

A: Once you’ve made the decision to undergo a surgical procedure, your physician will schedule a preoperative meeting to ensure the entire procedure is both as safe and comfortable as possible. A member of the a-c-t will speak with you to evaluate your condition, review your chart and map out your personal anesthetic plan. In order to do this, he or she takes into consideration any health problems you might have such as asthma, diabetes or an unusual heart or circulation problem.

You will likely discuss the following with your physician at that time and it is important to provide your physician with as much information as possible:

  • Medical history
  • Any known allergies
  • Dietary restrictions you will need to be aware of leading up to the procedure
  • Lab tests and diagnostic studies you will undergo in preparation for surgery
  • Potential complications associated with the procedure – both physical and mental
  • Status of family and friend support network leading up to, during and after surgery
  • Any concerns or anxiety you might have about the procedure

Q: What type of anesthesia will I receive?

A: Ask your physician about anesthesia options that will be used during your procedure. It will either be general, regional or local. It is also important to ask about the potentially negative effects of anesthesia.

Q: What will the anesthesiologist do during my procedure?

A: Your anesthesiologist is responsible for managing your vital functions such as your breathing, heart rhythm and blood pressure while administering your anesthesia.
During your procedure, your anesthesiologist uses advanced technology to monitor your body's functions, and he or she must interpret sophisticated monitors in order to appropriately diagnose, regulate and treat your body while a personalized, delicate balance of anesthetic medications are administered.

Q: Is there anything I should/should not eat before surgery?

A: As a general rule, you should not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery. Under some circumstances, you may be given permission by your anesthesiologist to drink clear liquids up to a few hours before your anesthesia.

Q: Is there any medication I should not take?

A: Although some medications should be taken before and after your surgery, there are also some that you should not take. It is important to discuss this with your anesthesiologist and geriatric specialist, and you should not interrupt medications unless your anesthesiologist or surgeon recommends it.

To help identify those substances that may affect your anesthesia and surgery, it is very important that you provide your physician with a complete list of all medications – prescription, over-the-counter or natural. Also, if you are currently taking multiple medications, it is especially important to consult a geriatric specialist about taking certain considerations prior to your surgery.

Q: Would my thinking and memory be affected after anesthesia and surgery?

A: Occasionally, some patients feel that their memory and thinking is just not the same after anesthesia and surgery. Currently, there is no evidence that the anesthesia you receive will cause these changes. In fact, research suggests that these changes are typically temporary, and have no long lasting effects.

Q: I have heard that patients can become confused and even combative after anesthesia and surgery. Am I at risk for it?

A: Not everyone experiences confusion after major surgery. Of those who do, they are typically older, and have other risk factors. If you have had episodes of these after your previous anesthesia and surgery, you should speak to your anesthesiologist. Although there is no known way to totally prevent the occurrence of this condition, there are some things we can do to help minimize its occurrence.

This is a check list of things we encourage:
1. Invite your family member to stay with you soon after awakening from anesthesia.
2. Bring your hearing aid or glasses if you need them, so you can be oriented to your environment soon after surgery.
3. Bring home items such as family photo if you are being admitted to a ward after your surgery.
4. If your room does not have a large clock and calendar, bring them on your own.

Helpful Links

What is Anesthesiology

Total care of the surgical patient before, during and after surgery.


Anesthesia Topics Quick Links

Choose a topic:

Featured Video:

Smoking and Surgery
Learn why stopping smoking before surgery can have an impact on your outcome.

Play Video

In Case of Emergency

Download, print, fill out, and keep this checklist. It just may save your life.


Come Prepared

Ask your anesthesiologist questions about what to expect before, during, and after your procedure.


The ASA does not employ physician anesthesiologists on staff and cannot respond to patient inquiries regarding specific medical conditions or anesthesia administration. Please direct any questions related to anesthetics, procedures or treatment outcomes to the patient’s anesthesiologist or general physician.