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What is anesthesiology?

Anesthesiology is the study of anesthesia—how to safely reduce patients’ sensation or consciousness for surgery and other medical procedures. It’s a vital, life-saving specialty, and anesthesiologists are some of the most highly trained doctors in the world.

Anesthesia can be divided into two general categories: general anesthesia, which puts the entire body to sleep, and regional anesthesia, which numbs a specific area. General anesthesia is induced by a combination of intravenous drugs and inhaled gases. The anesthesiologist carefully monitors the patient's vital signs—heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and level of consciousness—during surgery to ensure they are safe and comfortable. 

Regional anesthesia numbs a specific area of the body using injected drugs or local anesthetics applied directly to the skin. Common types of regional anesthesia include epidurals (numbing the lower half of the body), spinal blocks (numbing the lower half of the body), and nerve blocks (numbing a specific nerve or group of nerves).

Why is anesthesiology important in healthcare?

Anesthesiology is a complex specialty that requires many years of training. Anesthesiologists must have a strong understanding of pharmacology (the science of drugs) and physiology (how the body works). They must be able to think quickly and decisively in high-pressure situations. And they must be excellent communicators, able to put patients and families at ease before a surgical procedure.

Anesthesiology is one of medicine's most demanding—and rewarding—specialties. Anesthesiologists have the unique opportunity to help patients through some of the most vulnerable moments in their lives.