Most obstetric anesthesia is for either vaginal delivery or for Cesarean sections.

Anesthesia for Vaginal Delivery:  Anesthesia for vaginal delivery is utilized to diminish the pain of labor contractions, while leaving the mother as alert as possible, with as muscle strength as possible, to be able to push the baby out at the time of delivery.  Anesthesia for labor and vaginal delivery is usually accomplished by epidural injection of the local anesthetics bupivicaine (brand name Marcaine) or ropivicaine.

is done by the injection of local anesthetic solution, with or without a narcotic medication, into the low back into the epidural space. Prior to beginning anesthesia, the anesthesiologist places monitors of blood pressure, electrocardiogram, pulse and oxygen saturation of the blood.

The word epidural translates to “outside the dura”. The dura is the outermost lining of the meninges covering the nerves of the spinal column. The epidural space is located with a needle by the anesthesiologist, and the appropriate anesthetic medications are injected.   Often, a tiny catheter is left in the epidural space, taped to the patient’s low back, to allow repeated doses of the medication to be given.  The catheter is removed after childbirth.

Anesthesia for Cesarean Section: Cesarean section is a surgical procedure in which the obstetrician makes an incision through the skin of the lower abdomen, and through the wall of the uterus, or womb, to extract the baby without the child requiring a vaginal delivery.  Anesthesia for Cesarean section is usually a spinal or an epidural anesthetic, which leaves the mother as alert as possible, while rendering surgical anesthesia to her abdomen and pelvis.  Spinal or epidural anesthesia is accomplished by injection of local anesthetics, with or without a narcotic medication, into the low back into the subarachnoid or the epidural space. The anesthesiologist remains present for the entire surgical procedure, to assure that the mother is comfortable and that all vital signs are maintained as close to normal limits as possible.

In a minority of cases, the anesthesia provider will administer a general anesthetic for Cesarean section surgery.  The most common indications for general anesthesia are (1) emergency Cesarean, when there is no time for a spinal or epidural block;  and (2) significant bleeding by the mother, leading to a low blood volume, which is an unsafe circumstance to administer a spinal or epidural block.  General anesthetics for Cesarean section carry an increased risk over spinal/epidural anesthesia, primarily because the mother is no longer able to breath on her own and maintain her own airway.


Open heart surgery requires specialized equipment.  Anesthesia for cardiac surgery is complex, and the following is a brief summary:  Prior to the surgery, the anesthesiologist inserts a catheter into the radial artery at the wrist, to monitor the patient’s blood pressure continuously, rather than relying on a blood pressure cuff.  This enables the anesthesiologist to fine-tune the blood pressure, never allowing it to be too high or too low for an extended period of time.  The anesthesiologist also inserts a catheter (a central venous catheter, or CVP catheter) into a large vein in the patient’s neck.  The anesthesiologist uses this catheter to monitor the pressure inside the heart, and also to administer infusions of potent medications into the central circulation to raise or lower the blood pressure, or to increase the heart’s pumping function.

After the patient is anesthetized, the anesthesiologist often inserts a Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) probe into the patient’s mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach.  The TEE gives the anesthesiologist a two-dimensional image of the beating heart and the heart valves in real time, and enables him or her to adjust medications and fluid administration as needed to keep the patient stable.

For open heart surgery, once the chest is open, the cardiac surgeon inserts additional tubes into the veins and arteries around the heart, diverting the patient’s blood from the heart and lungs into a heart-lung machine located alongside the operating table.  During the time the patient is connected to the heart-lung machine, the patient’s heart can be stopped so that the surgeon can operate on a motionless heart.

When the surgeon has completed the cardiac repair, the heart is restarted, and the heart-lung machine is disconnected from the patient.

As the heart resumes beating, the anesthesiologist manages the drug therapy and intravenous fluid therapy to optimize the cardiac function.


Intracranial (brain) surgery requires exacting maintenance of blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory control.  Prior to the surgery, the anesthesiologist inserts a catheter into the radial artery at the wrist, to monitor the patient’s blood pressure continuously, rather than relying on a blood pressure cuff.  This enables the anesthesiologist to fine-tune the blood pressure, never allowing it to be too high or too low for an extended period of time.  The anesthesiologist also inserts a catheter (a central venous catheter, or CVP catheter) into a large vein in the patient’s neck.  The anesthesiologist uses this catheter to monitor the pressure inside the heart, and also to administer infusions of potent medications into the central circulation to raise or lower the blood pressure.

The anesthetic technique is designed to provide a motionless operating field for the surgeon.  After the anesthesiologist anesthetizes the patient, he or she inserts the endotracheal tube into the windpipe.  The patient is often hyperventilated, because hyperventilation causes the blood vessels in the brain to constrict, and makes the volume of the the brain decrease.  The relaxed brain affords the surgeon more room to dissect and expose brain tumors or aneurysms.

An important goal of the anesthetic is a quick wake-up at the conclusion of surgery, so that (1) normal neurological recovery of the patient can be confirmed, and (2) the patient is alert enough to  maintain their own airway and breathe on their own.  Most brain surgery patients spend at least one night in the intensive care unit (ICU) after surgery.

Introducing …,  THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a legal mystery. Publication date September 9, 2014 by Pegasus Books.

The first four chapters are available for free at Amazon. Read them and you’ll be hooked! To reach the Amazon webpage, click on the book image below:


Stanford professor Dr. Nico Antone leaves the wife he hates and the job he loves to return to Hibbing, Minnesota where he spent his childhood. He believes his son’s best chance to get accepted into a prestigious college is to graduate at the top of his class in this remote Midwestern town. His son becomes a small town hero and academic star, while Dr. Antone befriends Bobby Dylan, a deranged anesthetist who renamed and reinvented himself as a younger version of the iconic rock legend who grew up in Hibbing. An operating room death rocks their world, and Dr. Antone’s family and his relationship to Mr. Dylan are forever changed.

Equal parts legal thriller and medical thriller, The Doctor and Mr. Dylan examines the dark side of relationships between a doctor and his wife, a father and his son, and a man and his best friend. Set in a rural Northern Minnesota world reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, The Doctor and Mr. Dylan details scenes of family crises, operating room mishaps, and courtroom confrontation, and concludes in a final twist that will leave readers questioning what is of value in the world we live in.


5.0 out of 5 stars The Doctor and Mr Dylan, March 3, 2015
prabha venugopal (chicago, il USA) – See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
Gripping from the beginning to the end. Very well written, bringing to the forefront all the human emotions seen in an operating room spill over into real life. I cannot wait for Dr. Novak to wrote another book! As another physician in the same profession, my admiration for his book knows no limits.

Bang-Up Debut Novel, November 16, 2014

By Norm Goldman “Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures”

This part legal and medical thriller is structured with a mixed bag of situations involving relationships, jealousy, evil, lies, courtroom drama, operating room mishaps as well as moments that engender conflicting and unexpected outcomes. Noteworthy is that as the suspense builds readers will become eager to uncover the truth involving a mishap concerning Nico and a surgical procedure that has unanticipated ramifications.

This is a bang-up debut from a writer who understands timing and is able to deliver hairpin turns, particularly involving the courtroom drama,that you would expect from a book of this genre. PIONEER PRESS Entertainment

by Mary Ann Grossman, Entertainment Editor, St. Paul Pioneer Press, January 4, 2015

“The Doctor & Mr. Dylan” by Rick Novak (Pegasus Books, $17.50)

Dr. Nico Antone doesn’t hide the fact he hates his wife, but he says he didn’t kill her during an operation. The authorities think otherwise and his trial is the riveting suspense in this novel that is part medical thriller, part legal thriller, part exploration of family relationships.

Nico is an anesthesiologist (as is the author) who leaves his wife, their plush life in California and his job at Stanford to move to his hometown of Hibbing so their son, Johnny, has a better chance of getting into a prestigious college. Johnny hates the idea of moving to a small, cold town, but he’s popular from the first day in school. Nico doesn’t do so well. He’s envied by Bobby, an anesthetist who’s jealous of the better-educated Nico. But it’s hard to take Bobby seriously, since he thinks he’s the young Bob Dylan and lives in the house where Bobby Zimmerman grew up. To complicate matters, Nico is attracted to the mother of the young woman his son is dating. When the two teens get in trouble, Nico’s furious, rich wife comes to Minnesota and needs an emergency operation that puts her on Nico’s operating table.

Novak grew up in Hibbing, where he worked in the iron ore mines and played on the U.S. Junior Men’s Curling championship teams of 1974 and ’75. After graduating from Carleton College, he earned a medical degree at the University of Chicago and spent 30-plus years at Stanford Hospital, where he was an associate professor of anesthesia and Deputy Chief of the Anesthesia Department. His courtroom scenes are based on his experiences as an expert witness.

The Physician’s Late-Night Reading List

Two Pritzker alums pen captivating tales

By Brooke E. O’Neill, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, editir, Medicine on the Midway Magazine

For most physicians, writing — patient notes, case histories, perhaps journal articles — is part of the job. But for anesthesiologist-novelist Rick Novak, MD’80, and neurosurgeon-memoirist Moris Senegor, MD’82, it’s a second career that consumes early morning hours long before they step into the OR.

Fans of John Grisham will find a kindred spirit in Novak, whose fast-paced medical thriller, The Doctor & Mr. Dylan (Pegasus Books, 2014), transports readers to rural Northern Minnesota, where an accomplished physician and a deranged anesthetist who thinks he’s rock legend Bob Dylan see their worlds collide in the most unexpected ways.

Delivering real-life twists and turns — and a love letter to the Bay Area — is Senegor’s Dogmeat: A Memoir of Love and Neurosurgery in San Francisco (Xlibris, 2014), a coming-of-age tale chronicling the author’s away rotation with renowned neurosurgeon Charles Wilson, MD, at the University of California, San Francisco. Brutally honest, it spares no details of a time Senegor, who also served as a resident under the University of Chicago’s famed neurosurgery chair Sean Mullan, MD, describes as “one of the biggest failures of my life.”

One a vividly imagined nail-biter, the other an intimate peek into the surgical suite, both books deliver an ample dose of intensity and drama.



The Doctor and Mr. Dylan (Pegasus Books, 2014) by Rick Novak, MD’80

“I thought it was a novel way of killing someone,” said Rick Novak, deputy chief of anesthesiology at Stanford University, describing the imagined hospital death that was the genesis of his dark thriller The Doctor & Mr. Dylan. A huge Bob Dylan fan — the rock icon was born in Novak’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, where the story takes place — he then dreamed up a possible culprit: a psychotic anesthetist who thinks he’s Dylan.

From there, the words flowed. “I would write whenever I was with my laptop and had a free moment: in mornings, in evenings, in gaps between cases,” said Novak, who also blogs about anesthesia topics. “I don’t sleep much.”

After finishing the manuscript — one year to write, another to edit — came the challenge of finding a publisher. “In anesthesia, I’m an expert,” Novak said. “In the literary world, I’m an unknown.” After 207 responses of “no, thanks” or no answer at all, he landed an agent. Two months later, she informed him that Pegasus Books had bought his debut novel.

“I started crying,” Novak admits. “I have a third grader and at the time the big word the class was learning was ‘perseverance.’ That was it exactly.”

Dr. Joseph Andresen, Editor, Santa Clara County Medical Association Medical Bulletin, from the January/February 2015 issue:


This past month, Dr. Rick Novak handed me a hardbound copy of his debut novel The Doctor and Mr. Dylan. Rick and I go way back. It was my first week of residency at Stanford when we first met. A newcomer to the operating room, all the smells and sounds were foreign to me despite my previous three years in the hospital as an internal medicine resident. Rick, a soft spoken Minnesotan at heart, in his second year of residency, took me under his wing and guided me through those first few bewildering months, sharing his experience and wisdom freely.

Fast-forward 30 years later. Dr. Rick Novak, a novel and mystery author? This was new to me as I sat down and opened the first page of The Doctor and Mr. Dylan. I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect. Few books highlight a physician/anesthesiologist as a protagonist, and few books feature a SCCMA member as a physician/author. However, a medical-mystery theme novel wasn’t at the top of my must read list. With my 50-hour workweek, living and breathing medicine, imagining more emotional stress and drama was the furthest thing from my mind. However, three days later, as I turned the last page, and read the last few words. “life is a series of choices. I stuck my forefinger into the crook of the steering wheel, spun it hard to the left and …” This completed my 72-hour journey of and free moments I had, completely immersed in this story of life’s disappointments, human imperfections, and simple joys.

Rick, I can’t wait for your next book. Bravo!

Hibbingite writes twisted medical tale

HIBBING — Readers who are looking for a whodunit that will keep them up all night are in for a treat.

Hibbing native Rick Novak recently released his first book “The Doctor and Mr. Dylan,” a fiction set in Hibbing that merges anesthesia complications, a tumultuous marriage and the legend of Bob Dylan.

“The dialogue is sometimes funny, and there are lots of plot twists,” he said.

Novak said the book will not only entertain readers, but teach them about anesthesiology, Dylanology, the stressful race for elite college admission, and life on the Iron Range.

“The book is very conversational and streamlined,” he said. “I try to write as one would tell a story out loud.”

Novak said “The Doctor and Mr. Dylan” took him three years to perfect. He is currently working on his second book.

5.0 out of 5 stars I Sense We Have Another F.Scott Fitzgerald Emerging on the Literary Scene, December 1, 2014
Deann Brady (Sunnyvale, CA USA) – See all my reviews
I found Rick Novak’s first novel, “The Doctor and Mr. Dylan,” a most exciting combination of biting sarcasm, mystery and daily activity spun with fresh new phrases that made me turn my ear back to listen to the literary cadence of his words again and again even though, on the other hand, I was anxious to turn the pages to see what would happen next. His brilliant handling of scenes is reminiscent of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A compelling read!Deany Brady, author of “An Appalachian Childhood”


allan mishra

This review is from: The Doctor and Mr. Dylan (Kindle Edition)

Just finished Dr. Novak’s delightful novel. I sincerely enjoyed his honest take about the pressures and values that exist within California’s Silicon Valley. He also brought the North Country of Minnesota to life with memorable characters and a twisting, addictive plot. Buried beneath the fun and funny story is a deeper message about how to best care for your kids, your relationships and yourself. Very well written and highly recommended.

Learn more about Rick Novak’s fiction writing at rick by clicking on the picture below:




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