ANESTHESIOLOGISTS COVERING THREE OR FOUR OPERATING ROOMS AT ONCE CAN INCREASE RISKS 

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

JAMA Surgery published the study Association of Anesthesiologist Staffing Ratio With Surgical Patient Morbidity and Mortality on July 22, 2022. This was a landmark paper on the topic of anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratios, which documented that having physician anesthesiologists direct three or four operating rooms simultaneously for major noncardiac inpatient surgical procedures increased the 30-day risks of patient morbidity and mortality. The senior author was Sachin Kheterpal, MD, MBA, of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Michigan Medical School. The data was from a retrospective matched cohort study of major noncardiac inpatient surgical procedures performed from January 1, 2010, to October 31, 2017, and was conducted in 23 academic and private hospitals in the United States. 

The University of Michigan paper stated, “this study primarily analyzed physician-CRNA teams, the dominant practice model in US anesthesiology.” The physician-CRNA team, otherwise known as an anesthesia care team, is a model strongly supported by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.  The anesthesia care team is a system in which one anesthesiologist covers one, two, three, or four separate operating rooms, each room staffed by a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or an anesthesia assistant (AA). From a very large initial data set of 3,624,399 operations, the University of Michigan authors calculated the staffing ratio of physician anesthesiologist: CRNA for each operation. The following types of cases were excluded: anesthesia care personally performed by a physician anesthesiologist working alone; anesthesia care which involved an anesthesia assistant; anesthesia care involving an anesthesia resident; and anesthesia care that occurred overnight, during weekends, or on holidays. After these exclusions were applied, the data set consisted of 866,453 operations, in which 1960 anesthesiologists provided care in 23 different hospitals.

Data was divided into four groups:

  • Group 1: one anesthesiologist covering one operation (48,555 patients)
  • Group 1-2 (reference group): one anesthesiologist covering more than one to no more than two overlapping operations (247,057 patients)
  • Group 2-3: one anesthesiologist covering more than two to no more than three overlapping operations (216,193 patients)
  • Group 3-4: one anesthesiologist covering more than three to no more than four overlapping operations (67,010 patients)

The four groups were studied regarding 30-day morbidity and mortality outcome data. The morbidities included cardiac, respiratory, gastrointestinal, urinary, bleeding, and infectious complications. Overall, morbidity and mortality occurred after 30,026 operations (5.19%).

The results:

Compared with patients in group 1-2, those in group 2-3 had a 4% relative increase in mortality and morbidity (5.06% vs 5.25%; P = .02). 

Compared with patients in group 1-2, those in group in group 3-4 had a 14% increase in risk-adjusted mortality and morbidity (5.06% vs 5.75%; P < .001).

The paper stated, “When 100,000 operations, which is typical annually for a major medical center, are considered, the increase in risk from 5.06% to 5.75% that we observed would translate to an additional 690 operations with adverse outcomes,” and “increased overlapping anesthesiologist coverage beyond 1 to 2 operations was associated with an increased risk of surgical patient morbidity and 30-day mortality. Because 313 million surgical procedures are performed worldwide each year, any small individual improvements in outcome can have major repercussions for public health. These results complement previous studies that have shown improved 30-day mortality and morbidity rates after complications when anesthesiologists directed anesthesia care.”

The results of this study may be criticized because the data was retrospective, but it’s unlikely any prospective study will ever be done randomizing major noncardiac inpatient surgeries to anesthesiologist:CRNA ratios of 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, and 1:4. The adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) brought on the arrival of Big Data such as in this paper, in which a Herculean total of over 3.6 million charts were studied. An EMR enables physicians to study trends and outcome data in ways that were previously impossible. Does the data from the University of Michigan study support the fact that decreased staffing by physician anesthesiologists in major noncardiac inpatient surgical procedures is associated with increased 30-day morbidity and mortality? Yes, it does. Will this conclusion change the future practice of anesthesiology? Perhaps, but probably not. Why not? Let’s examine the most likely reasons behind the increased anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratios:

  1. There may be an inadequate supply of physician anesthesiologists to staff all major noncardiac inpatient surgical procedures at anesthesiologist:CRNA ratios of 1:1 or 1:2. There were 31,130 anesthesiologists in the United States in 2021, and more than 55,000 CRNAs in the United States. There were approximately 21 million surgeries per year in the United States in 2014.   The ratio of the number of surgeries compared to the number of anesthesiologists (21,000,000/31,130) equals 675 surgeries per anesthesiologist, a busy caseload. But the geographical distribution of where anesthesiologists live is not random, with populations of MD anesthesiologists concentrated in urban and suburban areas, and populations of MD anesthesiologists less concentrated in rural areas. Some locations have an inadequate census of physician anesthesiologists to staff every case as solo practitioners or at an anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio of 1:1 or 1:2. 
  2. A higher anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio may be a strategy to decrease the cost of anesthesia care. This issue was examined in detail in the American Society of Anesthesiologists Monitor.  In this study, the reported average yearly salary for a CRNA was $202,000, and they worked 40 hours per week. The reported average yearly salary for a private practice anesthesiologist was $440,000, and they worked 55 hours per week.  Cost-analysis showed that with adequate numbers of CRNAs to staff anesthesia care teams and to cover breaks for working CRNAs, the anesthesiologist:CRNA ratios of 1:2 and 1:3 were actually more expensive than running the rooms with a solo anesthesiologist in each room. An anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio of 1:4 was only marginally (< 10%) less costly than running the rooms with a solo anesthesiologist in each room. 
Figure 3: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. with break staff included. Because one needs 1.25 CRNAs per site to cover the 10-hour shifts, the cost savings for anesthesia care team model is further reduced. Anesthesia care team costs are compared to physician-only (MD-only). Spikes in costs are when the number of sites cannot be divided by the staffing ratio. 

3. A high anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio may increase the income per anesthesiologist. When one anesthesiologist directs multiple CRNAs in multiple operating rooms, that solitary physician anesthesiologist can increase his billing for the day. Medical direction of 2-4 concurrent anesthesia procedures: When two to four concurrent anesthesia procedures are medically directed, report with modifier QK. Services submitted with modifier QK will be reimbursed at 50% of the applicable fee.” 

Medical direction of four CRNAs –> the anesthesiologist can bill 50% of Physician Allowed Amount and 50% of CRNA Allowed Amount.

With four operating rooms directed by one anesthesiologist, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th operating rooms can each be billed at 50% of the anesthesia fee. Billing for four rooms simultaneously can increase the income for that solitary anesthesiologist over that time period. An anesthesiologist working alone, without CRNAs, can only attend to one patient, and can only bill services for a single patient. An analogy is a taxicab or Uber driver who can only bill for one ride at a time. The only way for a solo taxi driver or Uber driver to earn more money is to give more rides, and the only way for a solo anesthesiologist to earn more money is to do more cases for more hours of time.

The senior author of the University of Michigan study was Sachin Kheterpal, MD, MBA from the Department of Anesthesiology, yet the study was published in a surgical journal, JAMA Surgery, rather than an anesthesiology journal.Did anesthesiology journals reject the opportunity to publish the study? I don’t know. It’s pertinent that surgeons care greatly about the outcomes of surgeries they perform, and surgeons are less concerned with the economics of anesthesia staffing. Surgeons reading this study will no doubt conclude that an anesthesia group covering major noncardiac inpatient surgical cases with 1:3 or 1:4 anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratios are exposing their patients to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality.

Will this study change the anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratios in the future? My gut impression is that it will not. Anesthesiologists do not routinely read JAMA Surgery and may be quick to dismiss the findings. Surgeons may complain to their anesthesia colleagues that they do not want 1:3 or 1:4 anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratios for their major noncardiac inpatient surgical patients, but it’s unlikely they will have any power to enact change if the anesthesiologists don’t want to change. Why would anesthesiologists not move away from 1:3 or 1:4 anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratios? See the three reasons above: an inadequate supply of physician anesthesiologists; the quest to decrease anesthesia costs; and the goal of maximizing anesthesiologist income by directing 3 or 4 operating rooms at the same time.

I asked the anesthesia chairman of a large health-maintenance organization (HMO) how his group assigned anesthesia staffing, and his reply was that they used tiered staffing. A demanding case such as an open-heart surgery or a craniotomy was staffed by a solo physician anesthesiologist. In contrast, simple low-risk cases such as bunion repairs or carpal tunnel repairs on healthy patients were staffed by the maximal anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio of 1:4. The spectrum of remaining cases fell between these two extremes, and the anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio was assigned according to the difficulty and the risk of the anesthetic.

As a patient, how do you feel about all this? Would you be concerned if you were to be anesthetized by an anesthesia care team utilizing a 1:3 or 1:4 anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratio? In the University of Michigan study, if your surgery was a major noncardiac inpatient surgery during daytime hours, the data showed that your anesthesia team is putting you at increased risk for 30-day morbidity and mortality. The University of Michigan study only examined inpatient surgeries, so if you’re having outpatient ambulatory surgery, this study does not apply to your surgery. In 2014, outpatient surgery outnumbered inpatient surgery by 11,474,800 to 10,303,000. But if you or your family member are scheduled for major noncardiac inpatient surgery, it’s important to ask the question of what the anesthesiologist:CRNA staffing ratio will be while you or your family member are asleep, and how much of the time will your anesthesiologist be in the operating room.

If I was to be cared for by an anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 for a major noncardiac inpatient surgery during daytime hours, I would raise an objection before the anesthetic started, and I would direct my objection at both the attending anesthesiologist and the attending surgeon. Based on the data from the University of Michigan study, I would request an anesthesiologist:CRNA ratio of no higher than 1:2, or I would request a solo anesthesiologist to attend to me.

I’d suggest you do the same.

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The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:
How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?
Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?
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What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?
How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?
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The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:
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Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 170/99?
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READ ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM

THE TOP 20 DOCTORS IN THE HISTORY OF ANESTHESIA

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)
The first public demonstration of anesthesia, at the Ether Dome in Massachusetts General Hospital

Important advances in the history of anesthesia changed medicine forever. Humans have inhabited the Earth for 200,000 years, yet the discovery of surgical anesthesia was a relatively recent development in the mid-1800s. For thousands of years most surgical procedures were accompanied by severe pain, and the only strategies available to decrease pain were to give patients alcohol or opium until they were stuporous. How did our specialty advance from prescribing patients two shots of whiskey to administering safe modern anesthesia? In chronologic order, my choices for the most important doctors in the history of anesthesia are:

1842. Dr. Crawford Long, Georgia, USA. THE CO-DISCOVERER OF ETHER AS A GENERAL ANESTHETIC.  Dr. Long was an American surgeon recognized for introducing the use of inhaled ether as a general anesthetic. Dr. Long administered ether for the first time on March 30, 1842, to remove a tumor from the neck of patient James Venable. Dr. Long dripped ether on a towel through which Mr. Venable inhaled. Dr. Long performed multiple surgeries using this technique, but did not publish his findings until seven years later in 1849 in The Southern Medical and Surgical Journal. As a result, there is a dispute whether Dr. Crawford Long or Dr. William Morton (below) discovered ether anesthesia first. 

1846. Dr. William Morton, Boston, USA. THE FIRST PUBLIC DEMONSTRATION OF ETHER AS A GENERAL ANESTHETIC.  Dr. Morton performed the first public demonstration of general anesthesia at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital on October 16, 1846. Morton, a local dentist, utilized inhaled ether to anesthetize patient Gilbert Abbott for removal of a tumor on the patient’s neck. According to surgeon John Collins Warren’s account of the operation, “(the patient) said that he had felt as if his neck had been scratched; but subsequently, when inquired of by me, his statement was, that he did not experience pain at the time, although aware that the operation was proceeding. Morton was unaware of Dr. Crawford Long’s prior work which began four years earlier in 1842. Morton published his accomplishment in the December 1846 issue of Medical Examiner. Comment: Both Dr. Long and Morton deserve recognition for the discovery and eventual application of ether as a general anesthetic drug. The invention of ether changed medical care forever, making painless surgery a reality.

1853.  Dr. Alexander Wood, Scotland. THE DISCOVERY OF THE HYPODERMIC NEEDLE, THE SYRINGE, AND THE INJECTION OF MORPHINE. Dr. Wood invented a hollow needle that fit on the end of a piston-style syringe, and used the syringe and needle combination to successfully treat pain by injections of morphine.  Comment: Most anesthetic drugs today are injected intravenously. Such injections would be impossible without the invention of the syringe.

1885. Dr. William Halsted, Baltimore, USA. THE DISCOVERY OF INJECTABLE COCAINE AND LOCAL ANESTHESIA.  Cocaine was the first local anesthetic discovered. Dr. Halsted of Johns Hopkins University first injected 4% cocaine into a patient’s forearm and concluded that cocaine blocked sensation. The patient’s arm was numb below but not above the point of injection. Halstead became addicted to cocaine, and later to morphine.  Comment: The discovery of local anesthesia gave doctors the power to block pain in specific locations. The improved local anesthetics procaine (Novocain) and lidocaine were later discovered in 1905 and 1948, respectively.

1899. Dr. August Karl Gustav Bier, Germany. THE FIRST TO PERFORM SPINAL ANESTHESIA, AND ALSO THE INVENTOR OF THE BIER BLOCK (AN INTRAVENOUS REGIONAL ANESTHESIA TECHNIQUE FOR HAND OR FOOT SURGERY).  Dr. Bier was a German surgeon before the concept of an anesthesia specialist was invented. He performed the first surgery under spinal anesthesia in 1899. Dr. Bier injected cocaine through a spinal needle, which paralyzed the lower half of his patient. Dr. Bier was able to perform painless ankle surgery. The patient was fully conscious during the operation. Comment: Dr. Bier was the father of regional anesthesia, an important tool in the repertoire of a modern anesthesiologist.

Dr. Nikolai Korotkov

1905. Dr. Nikolai Korotkov, Russia. THE DISCOVERY OF THE MEASUREMENT OF BLOOD PRESSURE BY BLOOD PRESSURE CUFF. Dr. Korotkov described the sounds produced during auscultation with a stethoscope over a distal portion of an artery as a blood pressure cuff was deflated. These Korotkoff sounds resulted in an accurate determination of systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Comment: Anesthesiologists monitor patients repeatedly during every surgery. A patient’s vital signs are the heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, and temperature. It would be impossible to administer safe anesthesia without blood pressure measurement. Low blood pressures may be evidence of anesthetic overdose, excessive bleeding, or heart dysfunction. High blood pressures may be evidence of inadequate anesthetic depth or uncontrolled hypertension.

The cuffed endotracheal tube
Dr. Aurthur Guedel

1932. Dr. Arthur Guedel, Wisconsin, USA. DEVELOPMENT OF THE CUFFED ENDOTRACHEAL BREATHING TUBE. Dr. Guedel added an inflatable cuff to the distal end of a breathing tube to be inserted into a patient’s trachea. This advance allowed the use of positive-pressure ventilation into a patient’s lungs. Comment: Surgery within the abdomen and chest would be impossible without controlling the airway and breathing with a tube in the trachea. Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) of Airway-Breathing-Circulation depends on the insertion of a cuffed endotracheal tube.

1927. Dr. Ralph Waters, University of Wisconsin, USA. THE FIRST ANESTHESIA RESIDENCY PROGRAM. Before Dr. Waters, a variety of individuals administered anesthesia. He developed the first department of anesthesia at a medical school, and established the first resident training program in anesthesia. He is considered the “father of academic anesthesia.” Dr. Waters also introduced the anesthetic gas cyclopropane into clinical use, the carbon dioxide absorption method on the anesthesia machine, and endobronchial anesthesia for thoracic surgery. Comment: Every university anesthesia residency program owes a debt to the legacy of Ralph Waters. 

Dr. John Lundy

1934. Dr. John Lundy, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, USA. THE INTRODUCTION OF INTRAVENOUS THIOPENTAL AND INJECTABLE BARBITURATES.  Dr. Lundy of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota introduced the intravenous anesthetic sodium thiopental into medical practice. In 1934, Dr. Ernest Volwiler and Dr. Donnalee Tabern synthesized Pentothal, the first intravenous general anesthetic. Pentothal was first used in humans on 8 March 1934 by Dr. Ralph Waters. Three months later, Dr. John Lundy started clinical trials of thiopental at the Mayo Clinic at the request of Abbott Laboratories. Injecting Pentothal provided a more pleasant induction of anesthesia than inhaling pungent ether. Comment: This was a huge breakthrough. Almost every modern anesthetic begins with the intravenous injection of an anesthetic drug. (Propofol has now replaced Pentothal.)

1941, Dr. Robert Miller, Texas, USA. INVENTION OF THE MILLER INTUBATING LARYNGOSCOPE BLADE. The Miller straight laryngoscope blade was used to elevate the epiglottis and enabled anesthesiologists to directly view the vocal cords and the laryngeal opening in an anesthetized patient, so they could directly place an endotracheal breathing tube into the trachea. Comment: The Miller straight laryngoscope blade is the second most common blade used for direct laryngoscopy today, and my personal favorite.

Dr. Harold Griffith

1942. Dr. Harold Griffith, Montreal, Canada. THE DISCOVERY OF CURARE, THE FIRST INJECTABLE MUSCLE RELAXANT.  Dr. Griffith injected the paralyzing drug curare to 25 patients during cyclopropane general anesthesia to induce muscular relaxation. Although the existence of curare was known for many years—it was used on poison arrows by South American Indians—it was not used in surgery to deliberately cause muscle relaxation until this time. Comment: Paralyzing drugs are necessary to enable the easy insertion of endotracheal tubes into anesthetized patients, and paralysis is also essential for many abdominal and chest surgeries.

1943, Dr. Robert Macintosh, England.  INVENTION OF THE MACINTOSH INTUBATING LARYNGOSCOPE BLADE. The Macintosh curved laryngoscope blade enabled anesthesiologists to indirectly elevate the epiglottis and view the vocal cords and the laryngeal opening in an anesthetized patient, so they could directly place an endotracheal breathing tube into the trachea. Comment: The Macintosh curved laryngoscope blade is the most common blade used for direct laryngoscopy today.

ventilating the lungs by bag-ventilation via a tracheostomy

1953. Dr. Bjorn Ibsen, Denmark. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIRST INTENSIVE CARE UNIT (ICU).  The origin of the ICU followed the Copenhagen polio epidemic of 1952, which caused respiratory failure in hundreds of patients. Hundreds of patients required ventilation for weeks. Dr. Ibsen organized over a thousand medical students who positive-pressure-ventilated the lungs of these patients by bag-ventilation via tracheostomies. This gathering uniting of physicians and medical students to manage sick patients led to Ibsen being considered the “father of intensive care.” Comment: In the ICU, the Airway-Breathing-Circulation management perfected in the operating room was extended to critically ill patients who were not undergoing surgery.

1956. Dr. Charles Suckling. THE DISCOVERY OF HALOTHANE, THE FIRST MODERN INHALED ANESTHETIC. British chemist Charles Suckling synthesized the inhaled anesthetic halothane. Halothane had significant advantages over ether or cyclopropane. Halothane had a more pleasant odor, a higher potency, faster onset, and was nonflammable. Halothane gradually replaced older anesthetic vapors and achieved worldwide acceptance. Comment: Halothane was the forerunner of our modern inhaled anesthetics isoflurane, desflurane, and sevoflurane. These drugs have faster onset and offset times, cause less nausea, and are not explosive like ether was. The discovery of halothane changed inhalation anesthesia forever.

Dr. John Severinghaus and the first blood gas analyzer

1957. Dr. John Severinghaus, UCSF, California, USA. THE FIRST MEASUREMENT OF ACID/BASE CHEMISTRY OF HUMAN BLOOD.  Dr. Severinghaus developed the first blood gas analyzer, now on display in the Smithsonian Museum, which measured the pH, pCO2, and pO2 in a sample of arterial blood. https://www.mlo-online.com/continuing-education/article/13008466/blood-gas-testing-a-brief-history-and-new-regulatory-developments  He also developed the initial methods for measuring end-tidal gas concentrations in anesthetized patients in the mid-1970s, and he worked with Dr. Eger (below) on the discovery of minimum alveolar concentration of inhaled anesthetics. He died in 2021 at the age of 99 years. Comment: Measuring blood gases in an acutely ill patient is a cornerstone of all ER and ICU medicine. Measuring blood gases is also routine in cardiac, neurosurgical, and trauma anesthesia, and the measurement of end-tidal gas concentration is a standard in general anesthetics today.

1960s. Dr. Ted Eger, UCSF, California, USA. DISCOVERY OF THE MINIMUM ALVEOLAR CONCENTRATION OF POTENT INHALED ANESTHETICS. Dr. Eger defined the science of inhaled anesthesia uptake and concentration when he characterized the Minimum Alveolar Concentration (MAC) of every gaseous anesthesia drug. Per Dr. Eger’s New York Times obituary when he died at the age of 86 in 2017, he was “a leader in the development of a now universally used technique to determine the proper dose of anesthetic gas administered in operating rooms.” Comment: Almost every general anesthetic today includes some form of an inhaled anesthetic such as sevoflurane, desflurane, or nitrous oxide. Dr. Eger’s work defined the principles of how much gas to administer to each patient.

A pulse oximeter probe
Dr. William New

1983. Dr. William New, Stanford University, California, USA. THE DEVELOPMENT OF PULSE OXIMETRY MONITORING. The Nellcor pulse oximeter, co-developed by Stanford anesthesiologist Dr. William New, was the first commercially available device to measure the oxygen saturation in a patient’s bloodstream. The Nellcor pulse oximeter had the unique feature of lowering the audible pitch of the pulse tone as the oxygen saturation dropped, giving anesthesiologists an audible early warning that their patient’s heart and brain were in danger of low oxygen levels. Comment: The Nellcor changed patient monitoring forever. Oxygen saturation is now monitored before, during, and after every surgery. Prior to Nellcor monitoring, the first sign of low oxygen levels was often a cardiac arrest. Following the invention of the Nellcor, oxygen saturation became the fifth vital sign, along with pulse rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and temperature.

1987. Dr. Archie Brain, England. DEVELOPMENT OF THE FIRST COMMERCIAL LARYNGEAL MASK AIRWAY. The Laryngeal Mask Airway (LMA) replaced the endotracheal tube as the airway device for many general anesthetics. The LMA can be inserted blindly into a patient’s mouth, does not require the patient to be paralyzed for insertion, is an easy method for securing the airway, and does not require a laryngoscope. The LMA was introduced to the United States market in 1992. Comment: The LMA revolutionized the general anesthetic technique for most extremity surgeries, some head and neck surgeries, and is used as a rescue technique in the American Society of Anesthesiologists Difficult Airway Algorithm (see below).

1990s. Dr. Jonathan Benumof, UCSD, San Diego, California, USA.  DEVELOPMENT OF THE DIFFICULT AIRWAY ALGORITHM. Dr. Benumof was the main originator of the American Society of Anesthesiologists Difficulty Airway Algorithm, first published in 1996. The Difficult Airway Algorithm describes pathways to safe airway management, and its application has saved countless lives. Comment: The Difficult Airway Algorithm is the standard of care for managing patients who are difficult to intubate and/or oxygenate. All anesthesiology providers commit the algorithm to memory, because when airway disasters occur there is simply no time for them to Google the correct order of rescue procedures.

The GlideScopy
Dr. John Pacey

2001. Dr. John Pacey, vascular and general surgeon, University of British Columbia, Canada. INVENTION OF THE GLIDESCOPE, THE WORLD’S FIRST VIDEOLARYNGOSCOPE. Dr. Pacey introduced the GlideScope (Verathon) as the first commercially available video laryngoscope in 2001. The GlideScope combined two new technologies: the video laryngoscope and the hyper-angulated laryngoscope blade, and enabling doctors and CRNAs to “see around the corner” of the airway to place endotracheal tubes into the trachea of  patients with difficult airways. Comment: Note that Dr. Pacey and several other doctors on this Top 20 List invented improvements in airway management. Failed airway management remains the most dreaded complication in anesthesia practice, as it can lead to anoxic brain damage. We are thankful to Drs. Arthur Guedel, Ralph Waters, Robert Miller, Robert Macintosh, Archie Brain, Jon Benumof, and John Pacey, whose inventions made intubation of the difficult airway . . . less difficult. 

These are the top 20 doctors who made major advances in the history of anesthesia as I see them. Who will be the next successful inventor to advance our specialty? At Stanford University our department is titled the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine. A key question for the future of Anesthesiology is “How do anesthetics work on the brain?” A key question for the future of Pain Medicine is “How can we more effectively block pain?” In 2016 an estimated 20.4% of the adults in the United States had chronic pain, and the relief of pain remains a key unsolved problem. Anesthesiologists or scientists who develop answers to these questions will likely join The Top Doctors in the History of Anesthesia list.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The ultimate chronicle of anesthesia history is The Wondrous Story of Anesthesia, edited by Dr. Ted Eger, Dr. Laurence Saidman, and Dr. Rod Westhorpe. It’s available on Amazon and deserves to be on the bookshelf of every medical library in the world.

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:
How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?
Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?
Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?
What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?
How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?
Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?
What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:
10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia
Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?
12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training
Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 170/99?
Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams
What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

READ ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM

ROBOTIC ANESTHESIA 

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

How soon will we see robotic anesthesia in our hospitals and surgery centers? In the past three decades the high-tech revolution introduced the internet, the laptop computer, the iPhone, Google, and global positioning satellites. Most of these discoveries originated in Silicon Valley, just miles outside Stanford University Hospital where I’ve been working for the past 42 years. Our medical world inside the hospital has changed more slowly. We’ve seen advances in noninvasive surgery, fiberoptic scopes, transplantation science, cancer therapeutics, and mega healthcare delivery companies. But what’s new in anesthesia the last 30 years? Relatively little. The Glidescope, sugammadex, ultrasound-guided blocks, and the time-consuming Electronic Medical Record arrived, but we typically administer the same medications, use the same airway tubes, and watch the same vital signs monitors as we did in the 1990s. 

Why have there been no new anesthetics? Let me tell you a story: A former Stanford Chairman of Anesthesiology and friend of mine left the university in 2006 to become a pharmaceutical company executive, first at Novartis and then at AstraZeneca. Ten years ago, when I asked him what new anesthesia drugs were in the pipeline, he answered, “None, and there probably will be very few new ones. The drugs you have now are inexpensive generic drugs, and they work very well. The research and development costs to bring a new anesthetic drug to market are prohibitively expensive, and unless that new drug is markedly better, it will not push the inexpensive generic drugs out of use.”

Is the same true for anesthesia devices? Are proposed anesthetic robots too expensive to design, test, and manufacture? Can they be brought to market to assist current anesthesia providers? Can they be brought to market to replace any anesthesia providers? Keep these economic questions in mind as we review the current science of robotic anesthesia.

vanished and vanishing jobs

Jobs have already disappeared in many industries. ATMs replaced bank tellers. Automated garbage trucks replaced garbage men. In the near future automated cars and trucks will replace drivers. In medicine, computerized artificial intelligence for the analysis of digital images is superior to the human eye, placing the jobs of radiologists, pathologists, and dermatologists in peril. 

Will we live to see anesthesiologists replaced by technology? The following three pictures depict fictional anesthesia robots:

fictional medical robots

But this is what real anesthesia robots look like:

real anesthesia robots

An outline of the types of robotic anesthesia is as follows:

  1. PHARMACOLOGIC ROBOTS
  2. MECHANICAL ROBOTS PERFORMING PROCEDURES
  3. DECISION SUPPORT ROBOTS

  1. PHARMACOLOGIC ROBOTS:

In 2012 a United States national marketing firm contacted me to seek my opinion regarding an automated device to infuse propofol. The device was the Sedasys®-Computer-Assisted Personalized Sedation System, developed by Johnson and Johnson/Ethicon. The system incorporated an automated propofol infusion device, along with standard ASA monitors, including end-tidal CO2, into a device to be used to provide conscious sedation for GI endoscopy.

The SEDASYS system

The Sedasys unit infused an initial dose of propofol (typically 30 – 50 mg in young patients) over 3 minutes, and then began a maintenance infusion of propofol at a pre-programmed rate (usually 50 mcg/kg/min).  If the monitors detected signs of over-sedation, that is, falling oxygen saturation, depressed respiratory rate, or a failure of the end-tidal CO2 curve, then the propofol infusion was stopped automatically.  In addition, the machine talked to the patient, and at intervals asked the patient to squeeze a hand-held gripper device.  If the patient was non-responsive and did not squeeze, the propofol infusion was automatically stopped.

The planned strategy was to have gastroenterologists complete a weekend educational course to learn: that Sedasys was not appropriate if the patient is ASA 3 or 4 or had severe medical problems; that Sedasys was not appropriate if the patient had risk factors such as morbid obesity, a difficult airway, or sleep apnea; and gastroenterologists were taught the airway skills of chin lift, jaw thrust, oral airway use, nasal airway use, and bag-mask ventilation. 

I did not recommend the device be FDA-approved, as I saw the potential of inappropriate patients with obesity or sleep apnea slipping through the screening process, as well as the risk that an over-sedated patient could lose their airway and the gastroenterologist would not be able to rescue them, seeing as propofol has no reversal agent. 

With only one prospective clinical trial, the United States Food and Drug Administration did approve the device in 2013. There was limited clinical use of Sedasys, and Ethicon announced in March 2016 that it was pulling Sedasys from the market. 

The failure of Sedasys was attributed to three factors:

  1. If a patient became too “light” during a procedure, the Sedasys system was not capable of increasing the depth of the sedation.
  2. Both patients and endoscopists expected deep general anesthesia, not moderate sedation. 
  3. Gastroenterologists were ill-equipped to shoulder the responsibility of general anesthesia and airway management. 

From the failure of Sedasys it was clear that further refinement in technology and drug use was needed. That refinement was the development of closed-loop devices. A closed-loop control system is a set of mechanical or electronic devices that automatically regulates a process variable to a desired state or set point without human interaction. The cruise-control on your automobile is an example of closed-loop feedback control of driving speed.

In anesthesia, closed-loop devices can infuse the medications propofol and remifentanil, with the rate of the infusions guided by a bispectral (BIS) monitor of EEG (electroencephalography) activity.  Propofol is an ultra-short-acting hypnotic drug, and remifentanil is an ultra-short-acting narcotic. Administered together, these drugs induce total intravenous anesthesia (TIVA).

A closed-loop system can infuse these two drugs automatically. A BIS monitor calculates a score between 0 and 100 for the patient’s level of unconsciousness, with a score of 100 corresponding to wide awake and 0 corresponding to a flat EEG. A score of 40 – 60 is considered an optimal amount of anesthesia depth. A computer controls the infusion rates of two automated infusion pumps containing propofol and remifentanil. The infusion rates depend on whether the measured BIS score is higher or lower than the 40- 60 range. Researchers in Vancouver, Canada expanded this technology into a device called the iControl-RP, where the initials RP stand for remifentanil and propofol. In addition to the BIS monitor, the iControl-RP monitored the vital signs of blood oxygen level, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure to determine how much anesthesia to deliver.

iControl-RP robot

In a single-blind randomized study published in Anesthesiology in 2015, 42 patients were randomized to the closed-loop iControl-RP group or to a manual group. The results showed the percentage of time with BIS40-60 was greater in the closed-loop group (87%) vs. the manual group (72%). The number of perioperative adverse events and the length of stay in the postanesthesia care unit were similar. The conclusion of the study was that automated control of hypnosis and analgesia guided by the BIS was clinically feasible.

This study led to an article in the The Washington Post in 2015,  in which one of the machine’s co-developers, Dr. Mark Ansermino said, “We are convinced the machine can do better than human anesthesiologists.” The device had been used on 250 patients at that time. The iControl-RP team struggled to find a corporate backer for its project. Dr. Ansermino told The Washington Post, “Most big companies view this as too risky.” He believed a device like this was inevitable. “I think eventually this will happen,” Ansermino said, “whether we like it or not.”

A second pharmacologic robot named McSleepy used three syringe pumps to control the three components of general anesthesia (hypnosis, analgesia, and neuromuscular block) in an automated closed-loop anesthesia drug delivery system. Each component had specific monitoring: BIS; AnalgoScore (an-AL-go-score = a pain score derived from the heart rate and mean arterial pressure) which was used as the control variable to titrate the effective dose of remifentanil; and the train of four (TOF), which was a measure of the twitch strength of a muscle when its peripheral nerve was electrically stimulated.

McSleepy robot

A 2013 study in the British Journal of Anaesthesia  looked at 186 patients managed by McSleepy, in which the McSleepy system showed better control of hypnosis than manually administered anesthesia (see graphs below). 

The control of depth of anesthesia under McSleepy (blue) or manual (green)

The McSleepy system also showed faster extubation times than manually administered anaesthesia. 

A second McSleepy study in the British Journal of Anaesthesia in 2013 showed an application in telemedicine.  The remote control of general anesthetics was successfully performed between two different countries (Canada and Italy). Twenty patients underwent elective thyroid surgeries, with a master-computer in Montreal and a slave-computer in Pisa, demonstrating the feasibility of remote telemedicine control of anesthesia administration.

II.  MECHANICAL ANESTHESIA ROBOTS

Ma’s mask ventilation robot

The first example is a machine designed to provide mask ventilation, as described in the paper “Novel Anesthesia Airway Management Robot for Robot Assisted Non-invasive Positive Pressure Mask Ventilation,” Published by Dr. Ma et al, from China. Ma designed a robot equipped with two snake arms and a mask-fastening mechanism to facilitate trachea airway management for anesthesia. (PIC) The two snake arms were designed to lift a patient’s jaw. The mask-fastening mechanism was used to fasten and hold the mask onto a patient’s face. A joystick control unit managed both the lifting and fastening force. To date this system has not been used on humans, but the device was proposed as a method to perform non-invasive mask positive pressure ventilation via a robotic system.

The Kepler Intubating System

In 2012 Dr. Hemmerling at McGill University in Montreal published a paper in Current Opinions in Anaesthesiology, describing the Kepler Intubation System. The Kepler Intubation System consisted of a remote-control joystick and intubation cockpit, linked to a standard videolaryngoscope via a robotic arm. (PIC) Ninety intubations were performed on a mannequin with this device. The first group of 30 intubations was performed with the operator in direct view of the mannequin. The second group of 30 intubations was performed with the operator unable to see the mannequin. The third group of 30 intubations were performed via semiautomated intubations during which the robotic system replayed a tracing of a previously recorded intubation maneuver. All intubations were successful on the first attempt, with the average intubation times between 41 and 51 seconds for all three groups. The study concluded that a robotic intubation system can complete successful remote intubation within 40 to 60 seconds.

The Magellan Nerve Block System

In 2013 Dr. Hemmerling published the study “First Robotic Ultrasound-Guided Nerve Blocks in Humans Using the Magellan System” in Anesthesia & Analgesia. The Magellan system consisted of three main components: a joystick, a robotic arm, and a software control system. After localization of the sciatic nerve by ultrasound, 35 ml of bupivacaine 0.25% was injected by the robot. Thirteen patients were enrolled. The nerve blocks were successful in all patients. The nerve performance time was 164 seconds by the robotic system, and 189 seconds by a human practitioner. The Magellan System was the first robotic ultrasound-guided nerve block system tested on humans.  

III.  DECISION SUPPORT ROBOTS

A decision-support robot can recognize a crucial clinical situation that requires human intervention and, when allowed by the attending clinician, may administer treatment. It seems likely that cognitive robots which follow algorithms can increase patient safety.

In August 2021 Dr. Alexandre Joosten, an anesthesia professor in Brussels, Belgium and Paris, France, published “Computer-assisted Individualized Hemodynamic Management Reduces Intraoperative Hypotension in Intermediate- and High-risk Surgery: A Randomized Controlled Trial” in Anesthesiology.  This study tested the hypothesis that computer-assisted hemodynamic management could reduce intraoperative low blood pressure in patients undergoing intermediate- to high-risk surgery. This prospective randomized single-blinded study included 38 patients undergoing abdominal or orthopedic surgery. All patients had an indwelling radial arterial catheter to monitor blood pressure continuously. A closed-loop system titrated a norepinephrine infusion based on the blood pressure, and a second separate decision support system infused mini-fluid challenges when low blood pressures were recorded. Results showed the time of intraoperative hypotension was 1.2% in the computer-assisted group compared to 21.5% in the manually adjusted goal-directed therapy group (P < 0.001). The incidence of minor postoperative complications was the same between groups (42 vs. 58%; P = 0.330). The mean stroke volume index and cardiac index were both significantly higher in the computer-assisted group than in the manually adjusted goal-directed therapy group (P < 0.001). The study’s conclusion was that this closed-loop system resulted in a significant decrease in the percentage of intraoperative time with a low mean arterial pressure.

VOICE-ACTIVATED DEVICES

Voice-activated devices are gaining traction in healthcare. The story “Amazon’s Alexa Is Now a Healthcare Provider” was published by Medscape on February 17, 2022.

Alexa at bedside

The article described how thousands of Alexa-enabled devices are in use in hundreds of hospitals in America. Amazon’s Alexa functions as a digital personal assistant whose voice-powered innovation connects patients with their healthcare team members. Patients who are confined to bed can use their voice to communicate directly to a nurse’s smartphone. An Alexa device is positioned near the bed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, making it easy to call for nursing help. (PIC) Alexa can also connect healthcare providers to their patients. Doctors or nurses can appear virtually in a patient’s room on the Alexa Show’s video screen and assess the needs of that patient. I expect voice-activation to link healthcare providers with medical robots in the future.

PROBLEMS WITH ROBOTS REPLACING ANESTHESIA

The medical publications referenced above demonstrate that robotic anesthesia devices exist, yet none of them are in common use at this time. The current and proposed robotic devices are only small steps toward replacing anesthesiologists, because anesthetizing patients requires far more expertise than merely titrating drug levels or performing a solitary mechanical procedure. 

Anesthesia management consists of a wide variety of skills:

  • preoperative assessment of a patient’s medical problems 
  • successful mask ventilation of an unconscious patient (in most cases) followed by placement of an airway tube
  • diagnosis and treatment of any medical complication that occurs as a result of the anesthesia or the surgical procedure
  • removal of the airway tube at the conclusion of most surgeries, and 
  • the diagnosis and treatment of postoperative medical complications

Successful robotic anesthesia devices may eventually eliminate the repetitive aspects of anesthesia management. You may see robots assisting anesthesia providers in the coming decades, depending on the economic viability of the technology. 

Will the intrusion of a robot into anesthesia care be a welcome event? When you’re a patient, do you desire a caring, empathetic human attending to you, or do you desire an algorithm? 

Or in the future, will you desire both?

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PRESIDENT BIDEN’S COLONOSCOPY ANESTHESIA

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Three days ago, I was giving anesthesia for six consecutive colonoscopy patients. Following my first case, I checked my phone and discovered that the President of the United States Joe Biden was having a colonoscopy at Walter Reed Medical Center that very morning. The headlines stated that for the first time, temporary acting presidential power was being turned over to a woman, Vice President Kamala Harris, during the time of President Biden’s colonoscopy anesthesia.

I mentioned this to the gastroenterologist I was working with that day, and he asked, “How long do you think he will be unable to make decisions as the President? We tell our patients not to drive the rest of the day, and not to make any important life decisions after their general anesthetic. Biden has the most difficult and most important job on Earth. When can he return to duty?”

I answered, “My guess is that he’ll have the same propofol anesthetic we’re administering today. The procedure will last thirty minutes, he’ll begin to awaken five minutes after the propofol is discontinued, and within an hour he’ll feel clear-headed.” The gastroenterologist was dubious that the leader of the free world would be alert enough to resume power only one hour after receiving propofol. Joseph Biden was one day short of his 79th birthday when the colonoscopy took place. Later that morning the news services reported that the President had transferred presidential powers to Kamala Harris at 10:10 a.m. EST and resumed his presidential powers at 11:35 a.m., a mere 1 hour and 25 minutes later. 

The evening after the colonoscopy, comedian Colin Jost of Saturday Night Live joked about Biden’s colonoscopy.  During Weekend Update, Jost reported on Biden’s resumption of all his presidential responsibilities immediately following the colonoscopy, and noted that Biden had just turned 79. “Half the country already thinks he’s senile,” Jost said. “You can’t drop all that on him the second he comes out of the gas.”

A note from an anesthesiologist to the comedy writers: No one uses “gas” for anesthesia for a colonoscopy. The anesthetic is solely from intravenous (IV) drug(s).

I have no specific knowledge of what anesthetic drug regimen the President received for his colonoscopy, but more likely than not he received propofol. Anesthesia for colonoscopy is typically administered so that patients have no awareness during this procedure, a procedure which does not involve surgical pain, but rather involves the uncomfortable entrance of a 66-inch-long flexible hose, one-half-inch in diameter, into their anus, rectum, and colon. 

For the quickest recovery after colonoscopy, one option is no anesthesia at all. Very few patients sign up for a colonoscopy without any intravenous anesthesia. The press reports about Biden’s colonoscopy stated that he had anesthesia, so let’s discount the option that he had the procedure while awake. 

Colonoscopy sedation is typically done with one of two recipes: 1) conscious sedation with a combination of intravenous Versed (generic name midazolam, a benzodiazepine in the Valium family) plus intravenous fentanyl, such that the patient has no memory of the procedure; or 2) intravenous general anesthesia with propofol by continuous infusion or by intermittent boluses so that the patient is unresponsive. The combination of Versed and fentanyl leads to a slower wakeup and recovery than with propofol. The duration of effect of Versed is approximately 30 to 45 minutes after a single dose, with a recovery time of 2 to 6 hours. The duration of effect of IV fentanyl begins within minutes and lasts for 30 to 60 minutes after a single dose. 

Propofol for colonoscopy leads to a quicker wakeup, a quicker discharge home, and less hangover. Virtually every surgical general anesthetic in the United States includes propofol, and anesthesiologists are experts at the administration and pharmaceutical properties of the drug. Propofol is an intravenous nonbarbiturate anesthetic which induces anesthesia quickly and provides a rapid emergence from anesthesia. The onset of action is within 20 – 40 seconds. The anesthesia provider for a colonoscopy will continue administering IV propofol until the procedure is over. A typical colonoscopy will last 20 – 40 minutes, depending on whether the gastroenterologist needs to take extra time to remove any colonic polyps. In Biden’s case, a single 3 mm benign-appearing polyp was identified and removed.

Propofol’s pharmacokinetics are described by two phases:

In the first phase (red curve), the plasma concentration decreases rapidly because the drug redistributes, or spreads, out of the bloodstream into other tissues of the body. The halflife of this fast redistribution is only 2 – 8 minutes, meaning the concentration of propofol in the bloodstream is halved every 2 to 8 minutes. This first phase explains the quick transition to wakefulness up after the drug is stopped. The second phase (black curve) is the elimination of propofol from the body. The half-life time of this elimination from the body is 4 – 7 hours (reference: MILLER’S ANESTHESIA, 9thedition, chapter 23 on Intravenous Anesthetics).

The graph below depicts the timeline after propofol is discontinued. After a one-hour infusion, the concentration of propofol in the blood drops to near zero within 30-40 minutes.

THE PROPOFOL CONCENTRATION APPROACHES ZERO 40 MINUTES AFTER THE END OF INFUSION

The website PDR.net affirms this, stating that “Recovery from anesthesia is rapid (8 to 19 minutes for 2 hours of anesthesia) and is associated with minimal psychomotor impairment.” The PDR also states that “The elimination half-life of 3 to 12 hours is the result of slow release of propofol from fat stores. About 70% of a single dose is excreted renally (by the kidneys) in 24 hours.”

While the President would be awake one hour after receiving 30 minutes of propofol, and the blood concentration would be minimal, it still takes 24 hours for 70% of a single dose of propofol to be excreted by the kidneys. Therefore, one hour after the propofol was discontinued, even though the blood concentration was minimal, a significant amount of the drug would still be in the President’s body.

I’ve had propofol anesthesia for a colonoscopy, and I can attest that I woke up promptly and was in an automobile heading home within 45 minutes after the end of the procedure. I felt alert, albeit a bit woozy, after 60 minutes of recovery time. Did I feel it would have been safe for me to resume my duties administering general anesthetics to patients at that time? No. Would a major American airline allow one of its pilots to fly passengers at that time? No. Would the U.S. Army allow a general to command thousands of soldiers at that time? I doubt it.

One hour after a propofol colonoscopy anesthetic, the President would be awake enough to converse and give a “thumbs up.” Would he be alert enough at that point to make decisions regarding the nuclear football, a potential attack on Taiwan by mainland China, or a terrorist attack on a major United States city? Was this nearly 79-year-old man safe to make all the acute decisions the United States President could have to make, only one hour after discontinuing propofol? 

The Mayo Clinic website states that, “After the exam (colonoscopy), it takes about an hour to begin to recover from the sedative. You’ll need someone to take you home because it can take up to a day for the full effects of the sedative to wear off. Don’t drive or make important decisions or go back to work for the rest of the day.” 

Was Biden fit to run the country 55 minutes after his colonoscopy anesthetic? 

Hmmm. The decision as to whether he was recovered enough to resume running the country . . . was a decision made by President Biden’s doctors on that day.

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The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:
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READ ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM.

THE NEW 2022 ASA DIFFICULT AIRWAY ALGORITHM

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
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The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) just published a 2022 update on their ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm Guidelines. The 2022 document is a revision of the 2013 publication “Practice guidelines for management of the difficult airway: A report by the American Society of Anesthesiologists Task Force on Management of the Difficult Airway.” The 2022 ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm Guidelines are 51 pages in total.

The most important changes are identified by examining the 2013 and the 2022 algorithms side by side. Let’s look at the 2013 flow chart algorithm and compare it to the 2022 flow chart algorithm below:

THE 2013 ASA DIFFICULT AIRWAY ALGORITHM

THE 2022 ASA DIFFICULT AIRWAY ALGORITHM

Note these major changes from 2013 to 2022:

  1. The top third of the 2022 algorithm lists factors which direct the anesthesiologist to perform awake intubation. The reason for this change is undoubtably the wisdom of utilizing awake intubation when a significant risk of a difficulty airway exists. There are minimal airway risks when a patient is awake, and the benefit of placing the endotracheal tube in a difficult airway patient while the patient is awake is immense. When we give mock oral board examinations to anesthesia residents at Stanford, and we describe to the examinee that the patient has a difficult airway, the answer of “I’d do an awake intubation” is hard to criticize and almost never leads to a catastrophe. In contrast, inducing general anesthesia prior to intubation in these patients can lead to a “Can’t intubate-can’t oxygenate” emergency, which can lead to a cardiac arrest and possible anoxic brain damage.
  2. The text highlighted in red in the 2022 document is both new and vital. The first of these is “OPTIMIZE OXYGENATION THROUGHOUT,” under the pathway INTUBATION ATTEMPT WITH PATIENT AWAKE, with the footnote 2Low- or high-flow nasal cannula, head elevated position throughout procedure. Noninvasive ventilation during preoxygenation. The message is to keep oxygen flowing via nasal cannula throughout airway management attempts to minimize hypoxia, and to keep the head elevated to maximize the functional residual capacity (FRC), which is the reservoir of oxygen in the patient’s lungs.
  3. LIMIT ATTEMPTS, Consider calling for help” is new and printed within a red box in the INTUBATION ATTEMPT AFTER GENERAL ANESTHESIA –> FAILED pathway. This is an effort to prevent repetitive unsuccessful intubation attempts from soaking up precious time, during which the brain is poorly oxygenated.
  4. LIMIT ATTEMPTS AND CONSIDER AWAKENING THE PATIENT” is new and printed in red in the NON-EMERGENCY PATHWAY under the “Ventilation adequate/intubation unsuccessful” pathway. This is again an effort prevent repetitive unsuccessful intubation attempts from soaking up precious time, during which the brain is poorly oxygenated.
  5. LIMIT ATTEMPTS AND BE AWARE OF THE PASSAGE OF TIME, CALL FOR HELP/FOR INVASIVE ACCESS” is new and printed in red in the EMERGENCY PATHWAY under the MASK VENTILATION NOT ADEQUATE, SUPRAGLOTTIC AIRWAY NOT ADEQUATE pathway. This is again an effort to prevent repetitive unsuccessful intubation attempts from soaking up precious time, during which the brain is poorly oxygenated.

These changes, printed or boxed in red, emphasize that the pace of difficult airway decisions is important. The duration of elapsed time is vital. When an anesthesia provider cannot intubate the patient and then cannot ventilate the patient, the oxygen level in the blood can plummet. There is a significant danger of anoxic brain damage within minutes. I’ve previously reviewed this topic in a 2019 Anesthesia Grand Rounds Lecture at Stanford, summarized in my article “Five Minutes to Avoid Anoxic Brain Damage.” The U.S. Library of Medicine website states that “Brain cells are very sensitive to a lack of oxygen. Some brain cells start dying less than 5 minutes after their oxygen supply disappears. As a result, brain hypoxia can rapidly cause severe brain damage or death,” and “Time is very important when an unconscious person is not breathing. Permanent brain damage begins after only 4 minutes without oxygen, and death can occur as soon as 4 to 6 minutes later.”

The sentence “Be aware of the passage of time, the number of attempts, and oxygen saturation” appears more than once in the 2022 Difficult Airway Algorithm Guidelines article, and is a key point for all anesthesia providers who encounter a difficulty airway emergency.

In my roles as an anesthesia quality assurance reviewer or a medical-legal expert consultant, I’ve seen this issue arise multiple times. Even though anesthesia providers believe they are following the Difficult Algorithm accurately, they are doing things too slowly, and they waste too much time. Once it’s clear that a “Cannot intubate-cannot oxygenate” scenario is occurring, the time clock is running, and the anesthesia provider must not only do the correct thing but he or she must do the correct thing without undue delay. The necessary procedure may be as invasive as a cricothyroidotomy/front of the neck access via the scalpel-bougie-endotracheal tube approach.  

The five points listed above are the major changes in the algorithm. In addition, the new 2022 article includes a Pediatric Difficult Airway Algorithm and an approach to Extubation of the Trachea in a Difficult Airway Patient. Other important quotes from the 2022 article include (bold emphasis added):

  1. “The consultants and members of participating organizations strongly agree with recommendations to perform awake intubation, when appropriate, if the patient is suspected to be a difficult intubation and difficult ventilation (face mask/supraglottic airway) is anticipated.”
  2. “Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials comparing video-assisted laryngoscopy with direct laryngoscopy in patients with predicted difficult airways reported improved laryngeal views, a higher frequency of successful intubations, a higher frequency of first attempt intubations, and fewer intubation maneuvers with video-assisted laryngoscopy.”
  3. The footnote (7) for alternative difficult intubation approaches states: 7Alternative difficult intubation approaches include but are not limited to video-assisted laryngoscopy, alternative laryngoscope blades, combined techniques, intubating supraglottic airway (with or without flexible bronchoscopic guidance), flexible bronchoscopy, introducer, and lighted stylet or lightwand. 
  4. “A randomized controlled trial comparing a videolaryngoscope combined with a flexible bronchoscope reported a greater first attempt success rate with the combination technique than with a videolaryngoscope alone.”
  5. When appropriate, refer to an algorithm and/or cognitive aid.” 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’d suggest that the Stanford Emergency Manual of cognitive aid algorithms for anesthesia and ACLS emergencies be onsite at all anesthetizing locations. 

I’d also recommend that the 2022 ASA Difficult Airway guideline algorithm be onsite at all anesthetizing locations.

Every anesthesia professional will encounter patients with difficult airways—this is one of the most important and most feared situations in our specialty. Commit the 2022 ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm to memory. Use awake intubation when you’re concerned about the potential of a “Cannot intubate-cannot oxygenate” scenario. And if you’re in the middle of a difficult airway emergency, call for help and be aware of the passage of time, the number of attempts, and the oxygen saturation. Don’t let an excessive number of minutes elapse without regaining oxygenation of your patient.

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The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:
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The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:
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Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 170/99?
Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams
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READ ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM.

PHYSICIAN TRAINING: TWO FORKS IN THE ROAD

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

You’re in the middle of your medical school years, and wondering what specialty to pursue. There are two major forks in the road when trying to choose the career that suits your emotional make-up and work ethic. The sooner you understand these two forks in the road, the better off you’ll be. 

CLINIC DOCTOR OR ACUTE CARE DOCTOR?

The first major fork in the road is whether you’re best suited for a career as a clinic doctor or as an acute care doctor. The main specialties for clinic doctors are internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, and psychiatry. The main specialties for acute care doctors are surgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, and obstetrics-gynecology.

Internal medicine and pediatrics include subspecialties. The subspecialties of endocrinology, oncology, nephrology (kidney specialist), and allergy-immunology are primarily clinic doctors. Cardiologists are hybrid clinic/acute care doctors who must first complete a residency in internal medicine, and then subspecialize with 3-4 additional years of fellowship training. Pulmonologists (lung specialists) are also hybrid clinic/acute care doctors who must first complete a residency in internal medicine, and then subspecialize with 2 additional years of fellowship training.

Pursue a career as a clinic doctor if you enjoy sitting in a room, listening to patients and talking to patients. Most clinic doctors rarely place a tube or a needle into a patient after their residency training is completed. Most clinic doctors work daytime hours, but have weekend call and night call, which may include phone consultations or emergency room visits. Clinic doctors see multiple patients per day, perhaps 4-8 patients per day for psychiatrists, and up to 30 patients or more for some specialists such as allergists.

Pursue a career as an acute care doctor if you prefer adrenaline-charged arenas such as the operating room, the intensive care unit, the labor and delivery suite, or the emergency room. The pace will be much faster than in a clinic, and the stress level will be higher. You’ll perform surgeries, deliver babies, or run trauma Code Blues. If you become an anesthesiologist, you’ll routinely put your patients into pharmaceutical comas and then reverse that status.

These are some of the significant differences between the clinic path and the acute care path:

  1. Sudden risks are almost unknown in clinics. In a clinic setting, doctors make diagnoses, order tests, and prescribe oral medications. In an acute care setting, health care interventions involve scalpels, tubes, IVs, intravenous medications, breathing tubes and ventilators. Malpractice events are less likely to occur in clinic settings. It’s difficult to harm a patient in a clinic. Clinic errors may involve the failure to make the correct diagnosis or the failure to follow up on the result of an important test. Acute care errors can include failure to manage the A-B-Cs of airway, breathing, and circulation safely.
  2. Income differences. Physicians who do procedures, and who incur the risks of procedures gone wrong, earn more money. Physicians who staff clinics usually earn less. This fact may be concealed from medical students. Once students become aware of the income differences, the invisible hand of capitalism tends to drive them into the acute care specialties which are higher paying. The financial numbers are pertinent, because the median debt for an American medical school graduate was $200,000 in 2019. The average four-year cost for a public medical school education was $250,222, and the average four-year cost for a private medical school education was $330,180.  Medical school graduates need to earn a significant income to repay their student loans.
  3. Long-term relationships with patients. Primary care clinic doctors often attend to the same patients for decades, and form long-term cordial relationships with their patients. Acute care doctors typically see a patient once, for a surgery, an anesthetic, a childbirth, or an emergency room visit. Acute care doctors rarely develop lasting interactions with any of their patients. Clinic doctors may receive holiday cards or presents from their patients; acute care doctors will not.
  4. Lifestyle differences. Clinic doctors mainly work daytime hours, although they may receive afterhours phone calls regarding patient health problems. If one of their patients becomes acutely ill, a primary care doctor may see that patient in the emergency room. Some acute care specialists work as shift labor, especially emergency room doctors, anesthesiologists, or hospitalists. Acute care doctors may also have schedules in which they can take blocks of weeks or even months off at a time, giving them the option to pursue longer vacations or travel. Primary care doctors are rarely able to take long blocks of time away from their patients.

ACADEMIC DOCTOR OR COMMUNITY DOCTOR?

A second fork in the road during physician training is the choice whether to become an academic physician or a community physician. An academic physician is a faculty member at a medical school. Their job description includes teaching younger doctors and mentoring younger doctors in patient care. Academic physicians work in university hospitals, Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals, and county hospitals—any setting where medical students and resident physicians are training. Ambitious medical students often plan to become academic physicians, because they admire the academic professors who are training them. Ambitious medical students may profess that they want to become academic professors, because it may appear this career path is what the finest university training programs are looking for. The gambit seems to look like this: if you want to be admitted to a famous university residency program, tell them you want to be a famous professor just like the individual who is interviewing you for that program. I can only advise you to tell the truth about your career ambitions.

Most physicians eventually drift away from academic intentions, and become community physicians. Community physicians are individuals who work at your local clinic, your local hospital, or your local health maintenance organization. A 2017 article stated that “Although 45 percent of graduating medical students aspire to work in an academic setting, only about 16 percent will do so. Of those who do work in academic settings, up to 38 percent will leave academia within 10 years.” 

These are some of the significant differences between the between the academic path and the community path:

  1. Income. Academic physicians usually earn less money than community physicians. Academics spend part of their time teaching young doctors, instead of seeing additional patients. Academics may also spend part of their time doing laboratory science or clinical studies, instead of seeing additional patients. Academic departments also typically pay a “Dean’s tax” to the medical school dean, as part of their agreement within the medical school. 
  2. Housestaff back-up. Academic physicians have a team of housestaff physicians—interns, residents, and fellows—to do many of the mundane tasks of patient care for them. These housestaff physicians may sleep in the hospital and handle middle-of-the night issues while the academic faculty member sleeps at home. This is a significant benefit. I can attest that as you age, you’ll have less and less desire to get out of bed to handle urgent medical issues. Community physicians must function like interns. They set up call schedules to share night duty with other community physicians in the same specialty, but if there’s an issue at night when you’re on call, you will have to drive to the hospital to handle it.
  3. Tenure for professors. If academic professors have a productive career of publishing significant research, their university may award them with tenure, defined as lifetime job security at that university. Tenure guarantees a distinguished professor academic freedom and freedom of speech by protecting him or her from being fired no matter how controversial or nontraditional their research, publications, or ideas are. This benefit is usually only an option for basic science research doctors who are specifically hired to “tenure-track” appointments.

A THIRD FORK:

A small minority of medical school graduates shun either academic or community practice, and instead take their MD degree and go directly to work in industry either as a researcher at a medical company, or a consultant in a medical industry. Consider this path if you believe you’re not suited to taking care of patients.

My Journey:

I had personal experience with each of these forks in my medical education road. During medical school I was having a difficult time deciding between surgery and internal medicine. During my final summer quarter break, I returned to my hometown and joined the local general surgeon to observe him performing a gall bladder surgery. After the procedure, I questioned him about his satisfaction with his career in general surgery. He told me, “I’m very happy with general surgery, but if I had to do the 7-year residency over again, I could never do it. It was that difficult.” The look on his face told me what I needed to know, so I opted for a career in internal medicine. I matched at Stanford and began my three-year residency. During my second year, while I was spending my afternoons in the internal medicine clinic, I realized I preferred acute care to clinic care. That same year I’d spent one month in the Stanford intensive care unit (ICU) rotation. The Stanford anesthesia department ran the ICU, and I met multiple faculty and resident anesthesiologists who loved their specialty and were excellent role models. I made an appointment to meet with the ICU physician-in-chief, and told him I wanted to become an ICU specialist like him. He told me, “If you want to be an ICU doctor, I’d advise you to do an anesthesia residency first, because ICU care involves airway-breathing-circulation, and anesthesiologists are the airway experts. But once you finish your anesthesia residency, you’ll never come back to see me, because you’ll love anesthesia so much you’ll probably just do anesthesiology as a career.” I followed his advice. I applied to anesthesia residencies, and was eventually accepted to begin my anesthesia training, albeit three years into the future.

During those three years, I finished my internal medicine training. Then I hovered at the fork in the road between academic and community medicine during my one-year gap between my internal medicine and anesthesia residencies. The Stanford Department of Internal Medicine hired me for a twelve-month position as a faculty member in the emergency room. My role was to be the attending in the ER from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and to give a lecture to the residents each morning at 8 a.m. I was thrilled to be on the faculty at Stanford at the young age of 29. I discovered during that year that if you’re an academic doctor/clinician/educator who doesn’t do research, that you have minimal respect within your department. That same year I met many community doctors on their ER duty who were very happy with their work. My conclusion from my one-year academic appointment was that if you enjoyed clinical care, then it was better to just graduate from your training program and go out there and do clinical care in the community. If I’d had the skillset to become a tenure-track academic professor, perhaps I would have pursued a university career, but I did not.

THE BIG PICTURE:

There is tremendous competition to become a physician. Applications to medical school are at an all time high. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC), applications increased 18% from 2020 to 2021. Stanford University School of Medicine received 11,000 applications for an admission class of 90 spots.

It’s an honorable and a wonderful career to heal and take care of sick and suffering as a medical doctor. If you’re admitted to an American medical school, you’ll have the choice whether to become a primary care doctor or an acute care doctor. You’ll have the choice to become an academic physician or a community physician. But you’ll have made the most important choice already—to become a medical doctor in the first place. 

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The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:
How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?
Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?
Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?
What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?
How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?
Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?
What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:
10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia
Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?
12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training
Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 170/99?
Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams
What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

READ ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM.

EMERGENCY AT A SURGERY CENTER

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

You’re the anesthesiologist assigned to a freestanding ambulatory surgery center (ASC). Are you and the facility prepared for an emergency at a surgery center? Let’s examine this case study:

You meet your first patient of the morning, a 75-year-old female scheduled for lateral epicondylitis release surgery on her right elbow.  You review her medical record and interview her. You discover she had her aortic valve replaced with a small metal valve two years earlier. She is active, although she does experience mild shortness of breath on walking stairs. She is obese, weighing 200 pounds, with a BMI=35. She is on no medications. On physical exam, her vital signs are normal, her lungs are clear, and her heart exam is positive for the clicking sound of a mechanical valve and a 2/6 systolic murmur. She has a thick neck and a large tongue. The surgeon says he will only need to operate for 15 minutes. The patient refuses a regional nerve block, so she’ll need to be asleep.

You attach the standard vital sign monitors, preoxygenate the patient, and induce anesthesia with 150 mg of propofol, 50 micrograms of fentanyl, and 40 mg of rocuronium. You intubate her trachea with a 7.0 tube without difficulty, and place her on a ventilator delivering 1.5% sevoflurane and 50% nitrous oxide.

The patient’s arm is prepped and draped. The surgeon injects 2% lidocaine at the skin incision site, and the surgery begins. Vital signs remain normal with BP=110/70, P=80, and oxygen saturation=99%. The surgery concludes after 17 minutes. You discontinue the sevoflurane and reverse the paralysis with sugammadex. The patient’s blood pressure increases to 150/100 within three minutes. Three minutes later the oxygen saturation drops to 80% and thick frothy fluid bubbles into the endotracheal tube and the circle breathing hoses which connect the patient to the anesthesia machine. The blood pressure is now BP=180/120.

You call for help and attempt to suction the frothy fluid out of the breathing tubes. You listen to the lungs and hear loud rattling rales. You assess that you’re dealing with pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs). The patient’s oxygen saturation drops to 70%. 

A second anesthesiologist responds to your call for help and arrives in the room. You explain what is going on, and while you do, the oxygen saturation becomes unmeasurable and the blood pressure machine fails to give any reading. Your colleague suggests you administer 20 mg of Lasix (furosemide) as a diuretic, and he injects this for you. You continue to ventilate the patient with 100% oxygen, and continue to suction copious fluid out of the patient’s lungs. The ECG monitor descends into a slow agonal rhythm, and when you check the carotid artery at the patient’s neck, there is no pulse. You call a Code Blue and begin CPR compressions on the patient’s chest. After thirty minutes of Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) drug administration, the pulses have not returned. You have no other therapies to offer, and the patient is declared dead.

Acute pulmonary edema on a chest X-ray

Did this have to happen? No, it did not. In a parallel universe with more competent clinicians, let’s look at how this patient should have been handled:

  1. First off, this case was inappropriate for a freestanding outpatient surgery center. This freestanding outpatient surgery center was located miles from the local hospital, and the hospital resources of an intensive care unit (ICU), respiratory therapists, arterial blood gas analysis, and chest X-rays were not available. The surgery was trivial enough—a brief procedure on the elbow—but the patient had a medical history which was too complex to approve a general endotracheal anesthetic at a freestanding ASC. Typically patients who have had a successful cardiac valve replacement are much improved after their surgery, and complaints of shortness of breath or extreme fatigue—symptoms of inadequate cardiac function—are absent. A 75-year-old patient who complains of shortness of breath on exertion was a poor candidate for anesthesia at an ASC. A pre-operative cardiology consult was indicated, and would likely include an echocardiogram and a stress test. In our parallel universe, the echocardiogram ordered by the cardiologist revealed a small aortic valve diameter—less that one centimeter—and a dilated left ventricle with an ejection fraction (LVEF) of 35% (a severely abnormal value, as the normal left ventricle can eject more than 50% of its volume). This patient with a low LVEF needed to have her surgery postponed until her cardiac function was improved via medications or a further surgical cardiac intervention was done. After that, when and if this elbow surgery ever does occur, it would need to be done in a hospital setting.
  2. What if the anesthesiologist did not adhere to #1 above, and the anesthetic led to pulmonary edema as described above? How could the anesthesiologist better manage the emergency? All acute medical care is managed by A-B-C, or Airway-Breathing-Circulation. In this case the Airway tube was in place. The Breathing was being done by the ventilator, but the breathing tube was occluded by pulmonary edema fluid. The treatment to improve the Breathing was both active suctioning to clear the airway of fluid and medical treatment to reverse the cause of the increased fluid. Diagnosis of the Breathing and Cardiac problems was as follows: discontinuation of anesthesia in this patient, who still had a breathing tube in her trachea as she awakened, stimulated markedly increased blood pressure –> the left ventricle could not eject against this high pressure –> this led to acute left heart failure with resulting backup of fluid into the lungs –> this caused pulmonary edema and dropping oxygen saturation. (Because of her airway anatomy, she was not a candidate for a deep extubation.) Treatment for both the Breathing problem and the Cardiac problem was an emergency afterload reducing drug such as nitroprusside. Every ASC must have a Code Blue cart with emergency drugs and equipment, and the anesthesiologist must call for the cart. He or she instructs one of the RNs to prepare a 250 ml bag of nitroprusside and to attach it to an intravenous infusion pump.
  3. We anesthesiologists are only as good as our monitoring devices. When the oximeter reports very low readings and the BP cuff stops working, we are in big trouble. Anesthesiologists cannot safely administer a potent intravenous infusion such as nitroprusside without an accurate second-to-second monitor of the patient’s blood pressure. One of the anesthesiologists quickly places an arterial line catheter in the left radial artery at the wrist. The arterial line is connected to the monitoring equipment, to reveal that the blood pressure is 240/140, for a mean blood pressure (MAP) of 173 mm Hg. The anesthesiologists connect the nitroprusside drip to the peripheral intravenous line, and infuse the drug to decrease the blood pressure to 140/80 (MAP=100) within minutes. The frothing fluid in the breathing tubes clears, and the oxygen saturation returns to 100%. 
  4. The anesthesiologists then place a central venous catheter in the right internal jugular vein and transfer the nitroprusside infusion to the central line. They titrate small doses of fentanyl and Versed into the peripheral IV line to sedate the patient because immediate extubation is not appropriate, and prepare to transfer the patient via ambulance to the nearest hospital ICU. The original anesthesiologist accompanies the patient in the ambulance to the ICU, while continuing to monitor the patient’s vital signs and manage the blood pressure, sedation, ventilation, and oxygenation.
  5. The patient’s sedation is discontinued the next morning in the hospital ICU, and she is extubated safely. She has no brain damage or cardiac damage. The anesthesiologist visits her that afternoon, and converses with her as she eats her lunch. She has questions about how this could have happened, and he answers each question honestly.

There are multiple take-home messages from this case study:

  1. The preoperative screening of patients at a freestanding ASC is crucial. No one wants to have a Code Blue or a near-Code Blue, miles away from any hospital. Surgery centers manage preoperative screening in various ways, but most community ASCs do not run an in-person preoperative anesthesia clinic. At our ASC, a preoperative caller contacts each patient two days prior to their scheduled surgery, and fills out a comprehensive history form based on the patient’s answers and any medical tests and/or consults available on that patient. If there are positive answers regarding important medical issues such as shortness of breath, chest pain, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, morbid obesity, chronic kidney or liver disease, cancer, or previous transplants, then the preoperative caller refers the case to the Medical Director. The Medical Director makes the decision whether the patient is appropriate for the scheduled surgery. If the patient is not appropriate, the case is cancelled two days ahead of time.
  2. If an acute respiratory or cardiac emergency occurs at an ASC, the first move is to call for help from a second anesthesiologist. Two minds and four hands are a better solution. The registered nurses bring a copy of the Stanford Emergency Manual into the room, as well as the code cart which includes the emergency drugs and monitoring equipment.
  3. In a true emergency, diagnosis and treatment must occur within minutes. No anesthesiologist wants to be the doctor who “draws a blank” when their patient is trying to die right in front of them. Stanford’s Dr. David Gaba pioneered acute anesthesia simulator training to improve anesthesiologist performance in emergency settings. You may inquire whether such simulations are available in your geographic area.  
  4. Always manage acute medical emergencies as A-B-C, or Airway-Breathing-Circulation, in that order. In this case the improvement in Breathing required suctioning and afterload reduction, and the improvement Cardiac required arterial line monitoring and afterload reduction.
  5. Realize that short simple surgeries exist, but some short simple surgeries on sick patients present significant anesthetic risks. The anesthesiologist must assess all medical risks and not be swayed by a surgeon who insists this will be “just a short simple case.” If an anesthesiology complication occurs, that surgeon will not likely be blamed, nor will he or she come to your defense. It will be “the anesthesiologist’s fault.”
  6. Every ASC must be prepared for acute unexpected emergencies. The code cart must be stocked with ACLS medications and monitoring equipment for arterial and/or central lines. The ASC should ideally have a copy of the Stanford Emergency Manual, and all drugs and equipment listed in that manual should be available, even though it is not a hospital setting.
  7. It’s important for ASCs to conduct mock-Code-Blue drills on a yearly basis so that staff is prepared when a real emergency occurs.
  8. Depending on cost, an ASC may choose to stock a nitroglycerin drip or a newer potent vasodilator medication such as Cleviprex (clevidipine) rather than nitroprusside in their code cart.
  9. Ideally, anesthesiologists who work at ASCs should also have medical staff privileges at an acute care setting in a hospital, and be performing anesthetics on sicker hospitalized patients there. If an anesthesia provider’s practice is reduced to only healthy patients for outpatient surgeries, that anesthesia provider may become less than competent if a patient develops an emergency in a surgery center.
  10. In case of an emergency at a surgery center, your goal is to stabilize the patient and transfer the patient to the nearest hospital as soon as it is safely possible. The hospital resources of an ICU, respiratory therapists, radiology, cardiology consultation, and a full laboratory service including arterial blood gas analysis are invaluable.

For those readers who are surgical patients, let me reassure you that the vast majority of patients cared for at freestanding ASCs have no anesthesia complications, and many ASCs are staffed by competent anesthesiologists and nurses prepared to save you in the rare event that something goes awry before, during, or after your outpatient surgery.

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The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:
How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?
Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?
Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?
What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?
How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?
Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?
What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:
10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia
Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?
12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training
Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 170/99?
Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams
What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

READ ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM.

AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST’S SALARY

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

How much money does an anesthesiologist earn? What is a physician anesthesiologist’s salary in today’s marketplace?

screenshot2011-07-26at3-30-41pm

Let me begin by offering two anecdotes:

  • I was an invited visiting anesthesia professor at a major university this year, and following one of my lectures an anesthesiology resident approached me for a discussion. During our conversation he revealed that his student loan debt was $300,000. In 2014 the published average student loan debt for a physician was $183,000. I believe a higher estimate is not unusual, particularly if the student doctor attended private medical school and/or college.
  • I recently received an email from a medical student who was considering anesthesia as a career specialty, but his concern was: is the bottom about to fall out for anesthesiologists’ salaries? Should he perhaps avoid a career in anesthesiology?

Each anecdote concerns the issue of how much anesthesiologists earn, and what will that number be in the future?

The good news for the future of anesthesia careers is that the number of surgeries in the United States is expected at increase as the Baby Boomers age. The demand for anesthesia services will grow. Who will provide these services, and what will they be paid?

How much money do anesthesiologists currently make?

It depends.

If you do a Google search on this question, most of the published answers vary from $275,000 to $360,000 per year.

This sounds like a lot of money, but recall that to reach that salary, an anesthesiologist must finish 4 years of medical school and a 4-year anesthesia residency. At a minimum these young anesthesiologists are 30 years old. The deferred gratification is significant. Had they gone to work after college at age 22 and been promoted in a business job for 8 years, that individual might own a home, be saving for their children’s college educations, and would not have the debt from 4 years of medical school.

Let’s assume an individual does persevere and finish their anesthesia residency at age 30, and is now seeking an anesthesia job with that aforementioned average salary of $275,000 to $360,000 per year.

The first question: is that advertised salary a number prior to deductions for the big three of pension plan, health insurance, and malpractice insurance? If an anesthesiologist earns $300,000 per year, but must subtract these three expenses (let’s estimate pension plan at $45,000, health insurance at $24,000, and malpractice insurance at $20,000) then the income drops to $300,000 minus $89,000 = $211,000 per year, or $17,583 per month before taxes. Subtract again for student loan payments, and the income level continues to decrease. So a critical first question to ask is if the big three benefits are/are not part of the promised salary.

What specific factors determine how high the anesthesiologist’s salary will be? An operating room anesthesia practice is somewhat akin to being a taxi cab driver. You earn income for each ride/anesthetic, and your income depends on how many rides/anesthetics and how long they last. More complex anesthetics such as cardiac cases pay more, but the largest determiner is the duration of time one spends giving the anesthesia care. If you work in a physician anesthesiology practice where an MD stays with each surgical patient 100% of the time, then the only way to increase income is to do more cases or more hours. If you work in a practice which utilizes an anesthesia care team, where one physician anesthesiologist may supervise, for example, 4 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), then a physician’s income is increased because he or she is billing for and supervising care for multiple concurrent surgeries.

Different payers pay different sums per unit time. The top payers are insured patients of less than Medicare age (<65 years old). Among the lowest payers are uninsured patients (who often pay zero), Medicaid and Medicare patients, and Worker’s Compensation patients. Medicare patients routinely pay only 13-20 cents on the billed dollar, and Medicaid pays even lower, so a practice heavy with Medicare and Medicaid patients will compensate their anesthesiologists poorly. Insurance companies (i.e. Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Aetna, United Healthcare) pay whatever rate they have contracted with that anesthesia group. If a particular insurance company pays a low rate, an anesthesia group may refuse to sign a contract with that insurance company. This leaves the anesthesiologist out-of-network with that company, which can mean a higher payment or co-payment for the patient as a result of the insurance company’s refusal to negotiate a fair reimbursement.

Just as taxi cab drivers are being supplanted by Uber and Lyft, cheaper models of anesthesia care are popping up, and the penetration of these models into the future marketplace is unknown. One model is having a CRNA do the anesthetic independently without any physician anesthesiologist present. This is currently legal in 27 states (see map). At the current time, in my home state of California, independent CRNA practice is legal, but the penetration of this model in the marketplace is very minimal. The Veterans Affairs hospitals are currently pondering a move to allow CRNAs to practice independently without any physician anesthesiologist present. You can expect to see a higher penetration of the anesthesia care team, where one physician anesthesiologist may supervise, for example, 4 CRNAs, and a decrease in practices where an MD anesthesiologist stays with each patient 100% of the time.

To be blunt, my impression is that the future marketplace is unlikely to pay for a physician anesthesiologist to do solo anesthesia care for each and every surgical patient.

In the current marketplace a young graduate anesthesiologist may enter one of several different models of anesthesia practices. Each has a different level of salary expectation. The various models are listed below, in roughly a higher-income-per-anesthesiologist to lower-income-per-anesthesiologist order:

  1. A single-specialty anesthesia group that shares income fairly. This group may be as small as 5 or as large as hundreds of physician anesthesiologists, with or without additional CRNAs. Such a group usually has an exclusive contract with a hospital or hospitals to provide all anesthesia services, which can include trauma, obstetrics, and 24-hour emergency room coverage. A very large single-specialty anesthesia group may contract with many hospitals in a geographic area. In a single-specialty model, that single-specialty group receives all the anesthesia billings, and the income is divided, usually in some form of “eat-what-you-provided” formula. Those MDs who worked the most receive a proportional increase in their income. A new MD may have a one-year try-out before they become a partner, after which they are entitled to an equal income per unit time. This model where anesthesiologists are partners, is typically more lucrative than models where the anesthesiologists are employed by another entity. A survey by Medscape on anesthesiologists’ salaries in 2016 showed that male self-employed anesthesiologists (model #1) earned an average income of $413,000, while male anesthesiologist employees (see models #2 – #8 below) earned an average income of $336,000.
  2. A single-specialty anesthesia group in which a chairman (or a small oligopoly of MDs) collect the money, and then employ and grant a salary to everyone below them in the company. New hires are paid less, often with no potential to increase their income. This type of system preys on junior anesthesiologists.
  3. A multispecialty medical group. A multispecialty medical group has a bevy of primary care physicians who refer internally to their specialist surgeons, who then utilize their internal group of anesthesiologists. This is a secure job for anesthesiologists because the stream of cases is guaranteed by the physicians within their multispecialty group. A disadvantage is that incomes from lower paying specialties (primary care MDs) and higher paying specialties (i.e. cardiologists, surgeons, and anesthesiologists) are pooled. The lower paying specialists usually have their salaries raised, and the anesthesiologists will be subsidizing them.
  4. An HMO. In California the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) Kaiser Permanente has a large share of the marketplace. The entity known as the Permanente Medical Group is the multispecialty integrated medical group which works at the Kaiser hospitals and clinics. The reimbursement model will be similar to that described in #3 above.
  5. University anesthesia groups. A university employs MDs as a multispecialty medical group, and the model is similar to #3 above. A difference is that university groups have various taxes and fees on their income that go to the betterment and growth of the medical school and the university hospital system. In addition, some university hospitals provide care to indigent populations that may have higher percentage of poor payers such as Medicaid or uninsured patients.
  6. National anesthesia companies. In this model, a national company obtains the anesthesia contract for a hospital or multiple facilities, and then that national company hires and employs anesthesiologists. The company bills for the anesthesia services provided, pays their employee anesthesiologists whatever sum they’ve agreed to pay them, and the difference between the received monies and the owed salaries is profit that goes to stockholders of the national company. This model is problematic for our specialty, because a percentage of the anesthesia fees goes to stockholders who had zero to do with performing the professional service.
  7. Veteran’s Affairs (VA) hospital anesthesia groups. At the present time, VA hospitals are staffed by anesthesiologists who are employees of the VA system. As mentioned above, there are politicians pushing for the VA to allow CRNAs to practice independently, unsupervised by physician anesthesiologists. The American Society of Anesthesiologists is opposed to this change, believing that our veterans deserve physician anesthesiologists.
  8. Locum tenens assignments. These are part-time, week-long, or month-long anesthesia duties, paid for at a daily rate. A typical fee for a full day’s work may be a pre-tax payment of $1200/day (not including the big three of pension, health or malpractice insurance).

As stated above, the good news for the future of anesthesia careers is that the number of surgeries in the United States is expected at increase as the Baby Boomers age. The demand for anesthesia services will grow. The unknown fiscal factors for the future of our specialty are:

  1. What will insurers/Medicare/Medicaid/the Affordable Care Act pay for these anesthesia services? Will a single payer government health plan ever arrive, and if it does what will anesthesiologists be paid?
  2. Who will be giving these services? Physician anesthesiologists, anesthesia care teams involving physician anesthesiologists plus CRNAs, anesthesia care teams involving physician anesthesiologists plus Anesthesia Assistants, or independent CRNAs?
  3. The American Society of Anesthesiologists is attempting to rebrand the practice of anesthesiology with the concept of the Perioperative Surgical Home (PSH), in which physician anesthesiologists are responsible for all aspects of preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative medical care for patients around the time of surgery. This expanded role includes preoperative clinics and postoperative pain control and medical management. To what degree can/will the PSH change the job market for graduating anesthesiologists?

In any case, as I wrote on the Home Page of theanesthesiaconsultant.com website, “the profession of medicine offers a lifetime of fascination, and no specialty is more fascinating than anesthesiology.” If a college student or a medical student is truly interested in a career in anesthesia, I remain encouraging to them, regardless of these uncertainties regarding the future.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Check out . . . THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

 

DENTAL ANESTHESIA DEATHS . . . GENERAL ANESTHESIA FOR PEDIATRIC PATIENTS IN DENTAL OFFICES

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

GENERAL ANESTHESIA FOR DENTAL OFFICES CASE PRESENTATION: A 5-year-old developmentally delayed autistic boy has multiple dental cavities. The dentist consults you, a physician anesthesiologist, to do sedation or anesthesia for dental restoration. What do you do?

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DISCUSSION:  Children periodically die in dental offices due to complications of general anesthesia or intravenous sedation. Links to recent reports include the following:

3-year-old girl dies in San Ramon, CA after a dental procedure in July 2016.

A 14-month-old child, scheduled to have 2 cavities filled, dies in an Austin, TX dental office. The dentist and an anesthesiologist were both present.

A 6-year-old boy, scheduled to have teeth capped at a dental clinic, has anesthesia and dies after the breathing tube is removed.

Another 6-year-old boy, scheduled to have a tooth extracted by an oral surgeon, dies after the oral surgeon administers general anesthesia.

Pediatric dentists use a variety of tactics to keep a typical child calm during dental care. The child is encouraged to view a movie or cartoon while the dental hygienist or dentist works. The parent or parents are encouraged to sit alongside their child to provide emotional support. If a typical child requires a filling for a cavity, the dentist can utilize nitrous oxide via a nasal mask with or without local anesthesia inside the mouth.

These simple methods are not effective if the child has a developmental delay, autism, behavioral problems, or if the child is very young. Such cases sometimes present to a pediatric hospital for anesthetic care, but at times the child will be treated in a dental office. Possible anesthesia professionals include a physician anesthesiologist, a dental anesthesiologist, or an oral surgeon (who is trained in both surgery and anesthesia).

 

HOW WOULD A PHYSICIAN ANESTHESIOLOGIST ANESTHETIZE A CHILD IN A DENTAL OFFICE?

There are a variety of techniques an anesthesiologist might use to sedate or anesthetize a young child. The correct choice is usually the simplest technique that works. Alternative methods include intramuscular sedation, intravenous sedation, or potent inhaled anesthetics.

 

ANESTHESIA INDUCTION:

The first decision is how to begin the anesthetic on an uncooperative child. Options for anesthesia induction include:

  1. Intramuscular sedation. A typical recipe is the combination of 2 mg/kg of ketamine, 0.2 mg of midazolam, and .02 mg/kg of atropine. These three medications are drawn up in a single syringe and injected into either the deltoid muscle at the shoulder or into the muscle of the anterior thigh. Ketamine is a general anesthetic drug that induces unconsciousness and relieves pain. Midazolam is a benzodiazepine which induces sleepiness and decreases anxiety. Ketamine can cause intense dreams which may be frightening. Midazolam is given because it minimizes ketamine dreams. Atropine offsets the increased oral secretions induced by ketamine. Within minutes after the injection of these three drugs, the child will become sleepy and unresponsive, and the anesthesiologist can take the child from the parent’s arms and bring the patient into the operating room. Most anesthesiologists will insert an intravenous catheter into the patient’s arm at this point, so any further doses of ketamine, midazolam, or propofol can be administered through the IV.
  2. Oral sedation with a dose of 0.5-0.75 mg/kg of oral midazolam syrup (maximum dose 20 mg). If the child will tolerate drinking the oral medication, the child will become sleepy within 15- 20 minutes. At this point, the anesthesiologist can take the patient away from the parent and proceed into the operating room, where either an intravenous anesthetic or an inhaled sevoflurane anesthetic can be initiated.

 

MONITORING THE PATIENT:

  1. The patient should have all the same monitors an anesthesiologist would use in a hospital or a surgery center. This includes a pulse oximeter, an ECG, a blood pressure cuff, a monitor of the exhaled end-tidal carbon dioxide, and the ability to monitor temperature.
  2. The anesthesiologist is the main monitor. He or she will be vigilant to all vital signs, and to the Airway-Breathing-Circulation of the patient.

 

MAINTENANCE OF ANESTHESIA:

  1. Regardless of which anesthetic regimen is used, oxygen will be administered. Room air includes only 21% oxygen. The anesthesiologist will administer 30-50% oxygen or more as needed to keep the patient’s oxygen saturation >90%.
  2. Intravenous sedation: This may include any combination of IV midazolam, ketamine, propofol, or a narcotic such as fentanyl.
  3. Local blocks by the dentist. The dentist may inject local anesthesia at the base of the involved tooth, near the superior alveolar nerve to block all sensation to the upper teeth, or near the inferior alveolar nerve to anesthetize all sensation to the lower jaw.
  4. Inhaled nitrous oxide. The simplest inhaled agent is nitrous oxide, which is inexpensive and rapid acting. Used alone, nitrous oxide is not potent enough to make a patient fall asleep. Nitrous oxide can be used as an adjunct to any of the other anesthetic drugs listed in this column.
  5. Potent inhalation anesthesia (sevoflurane). Most dental offices will not have a machine to administer sevoflurane. (Every hospital operating room has an anesthesia machine which delivers sevoflurane vapor.) Portable anesthesia machines fitted with a sevoflurane vaporizer are available. A colleague of mine who worked full time as a roving physician anesthesiologist to multiple pediatric dental offices leased such a machine and used it for years. The advantages of sevoflurane are: i) few intravenous drugs will be necessary if the anesthesiologist uses sevo, and ii) the onset and offset of sevo is very fast—as fast as nitrous oxide. The administration of sevoflurane usually requires the use of a breathing tube, inserted into the patient’s windpipe.
  6. The anesthesiologist will be present during the entire anesthetic, and will not leave.

 

AWAKENING FROM ANESTHESIA:

  1. With intramuscular and/or intravenous drugs, the wake-up is dependent on the time it takes for the administered drugs to wear off or redistribute out of the blood stream. This may take 30-60 minutes or more following the conclusion of the anesthetic.
  2. With inhaled agents such as sevoflurane and nitrous oxide, the wake-up is dependent on the patient exhaling the anesthetic gas. The majority of the inhaled anesthetic effect is gone within 20-30 minutes after the anesthetic is discontinued.
  3. The patient must be observed and monitored until he or she is alert enough to be discharged from the medical facility. This can be challenging if a series of patients are to be anesthetized in a dentist’s office. The medical staff must monitor the post-operative patient and also attend to the next patient’s anesthetic care. It’s imperative that the earlier patient is awake before the anesthesiologist turns his full attention to the next patient.

 

THE ANESTHETIC FOR OUR CASE PRESENTATION ABOVE:

  1. The anesthesiologist meets the parents and the patient, and explains the anesthetic options and procedures to the parent. The parent then consents.
  2. The anesthesiologist prepares the dental operating room with all the necessary equipment in the mnemonic M-A-I-D-S, which stands for Monitors and Machine, Airway equipment, Intravenous line, Drugs, and Suction.
  3. The anesthesiologist injects the syringe of ketamine, midazolam, and atropine into the child’s deltoid muscle. The child becomes sleepy and limp within one minute, and the anesthesiologist carries the child into the operating room.
  4. All the vital sign monitors are placed, and oxygen is administered via a nasal cannula.
  5. An IV is started in the patient’s arm.
  6. The dentist begins the surgery. He or she may inject local anesthesia as needed to block pain.
  7. Additional IV sedation is administered with propofol, ketamine, midazolam, or fentanyl as deemed necessary.
  8. When the surgery is nearing conclusion, the anesthesiologist will stop the administration of any further anesthesia. When the surgery ends, the anesthesiologist remains with the patient until the patient is awake. The patient may be taken to a separate recovery room, but that second room must have an oxygen saturation monitor and a health care professional to monitor the patient until discharge.

CHALLENGES OF DENTAL OFFICE ANESTHESIA:

  1. You’re do all the anesthesia work alone. If you have an airway problem or an acute emergency, you’ll have no other anesthesia professional to assist you. Your only helpers are the dentist and the dental assistant.
  2. The cases are difficult, otherwise you wouldn’t be there at all. Every one of the patients will have some challenging medical issue(s).
  3. You have no preop clinic, so you don’t know what you’re getting into until you meet the patient. I’d recommend you telephone the parents the evening before, so you can glean the past medical and surgical histories, and so you can explain the anesthetic procedure. Nonetheless, you can’t evaluate an airway over the phone, and on the day of surgery you may encounter more challenge than you are willing to undertake.
  4. It’s OK to cancel a case and recommend it be done in a hospital setting if you aren’t comfortable proceeding.
  5. The anesthesiologist usually has to bring his or her own drugs. The narcotics and controlled substances need to be purchased and accounted for by the anesthesiologist with strict narcotic logs to prove no narcotics are being diverted for personal use. All emergency resuscitation drugs need to be on site in the dental office or brought in by the anesthesiologist.
  6. If a sevoflurane vaporizer is utilized, dantrolene treatment for Malignant Hyperthermia must be immediately available.

 

BENEFITS OF DENTAL OFFICE SEDATION AND GENERAL ANESTHESIA:

  1. The parents of the patients are grateful. The parents know how difficult dental care on their awake child has been, and they’re thankful to have the procedures facilitated in a dental office.
  2. The dentist and their staff are grateful. They don’t have a method to safely sedate such patients, and are thankful that you do.
  3. Most cases are not paid for by health insurance, rather they are cash pay in advance.

 

HOW SAFE IS ANESTHESIA AND SEDATION IN A DENTAL OFFICE?

No database can answer the question at present. In 2013 the journal Paediatric Anesthesia published a paper entitled Trends in death associated with pediatric dental sedation and general anesthesia. (1) The paper reported on children who had died in the United States following receiving anesthesia for a dental procedure between1980-2011. Most deaths occurred among 2-5 year-olds, in an office setting, and with a general or pediatric dentist (not a physician anesthesiologist or dental anesthesiologist) as the anesthesia provider. In this latter group, 17 of 25 deaths were linked with a sedation anesthetic.

Another study analyzed closed claims databases of 17 malpractice claims of adverse anesthesia events in pediatric patients in dental offices from 1992 – 2007. (2) Thirteen cases involved sedation, 3 involved local anesthesia alone, and 1 involved general anesthesia. 53% of the claims involved patient death or permanent brain damage. In these claims the average patient age was 3.6 years. Six cases involved general dentists as the anesthesia provider, and 2 involved local anesthesia alone. The adverse event occurred in the dental office in 71% of the claims. Of the 13 claims involving sedation, only 1 claim involved the use of vital sign monitoring. The study concluded that very young patients (≤ 3-years-old) were at greatest risk during administration of sedative and/or local anesthetic agents. The study concluded that some practitioners were inadequately monitoring patients during sedation procedures. Adverse events had a high chance of occurring at the dental office where care is being provided.

If general anesthesia or deep sedation are performed in a dental office, the anesthetist must practice with the same vigilance and standards of care as they would in a hospital or surgery center. Either a physician anesthesiologist, an oral surgeon (acting as both the dental surgeon and the anesthetist), or a dental anesthesiologist may perform the anesthesia. There are no data at this time to affirm that a physician anesthesiologist is the safest practitioner in this setting.

Note: This column addressed the office practice of pediatric dental anesthesia as seen from a physician anesthesiologist’s point of view.

References:

(1) Lee HH et al, Trends in death associated with pediatric dental sedation and general anesthesia. Paediatr Anaesth. 2013 Aug;23(8):741-6.

(2) Chicka MC et al, Adverse events during pediatric dental anesthesia and sedation: a review of closed malpractice insurance claims. Pediatr Dent.2012 May-Jun;34(3):231-8.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

13 MAJOR CHANGES IN ANESTHESIOLOGY IN THE LAST TEN YEARS

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Let’s look at 13 major changes in the last ten years of anesthesiology, and give a letter grade to mark the significance of each advance:

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SUGAMMADEX – The long awaited reversal agent for neuromuscular paralysis reached the market in 2016, and by my review, the drug is wonderful. I’ve found sugammadex to reverse rocuronium paralysis in less than a minute in every patient who has at least one twitch from a nerve stimulator. The dose is expensive at about $100 per patient, but at this time that’s cheaper than the acquisition costs for neostigmine + glycopyrrolate. The acquisition cost of neostigmine + glycopyrrolate at our facilities exceeds $100, and this combination of drugs can take up to 9 minutes to reverse rocuronium paralysis. Sugammadex reversal can make the duration of a rocuronium motor block almost as short acting as a succinylcholine motor block, and sugammadex can also eliminate complications in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit due to residual postoperative muscle paralysis. Grade = A.

 

SHORTAGES OF GENERIC INTRAVENOUS DRUGS – Over the last five years we’ve seen unexpected shortages of fentanyl, morphine, propofol, ephedrine, neostigmine, glycopyrrolate, meperidine, and atropine, to name a few. These are generic drugs that formerly cost pennies per ampoule. In the current marketplace, generic manufacturers have limited the supplies and elevated the prices of these medications to exorbitant levels. I wish I’d had the foresight and the money ten years ago to invest in a factory that produced generic anesthetic drugs. Grade = F.

 

THE PERIOPERATIVE SURGICAL HOME – The American Society of Anesthesiologists has been pushing this excellent concept for years now—the idea being that a team of physician anesthesiologists will manage all perioperative medical care from preoperative clinic assessment through discharge, including intraoperative care, postoperative care and pain management in the PACU, the ICU, and the hospital wards. The goal is improved patient care with decreased costs. It’s not clear the idea has widespread traction as of yet, and the concept will always be at odds with the individual aspirations of internal medicine doctors, hospitalists, intensivists, surgeons, and certified nurse anesthetists, all who want to make their own management decisions, and all who desire to be paid for owning those decisions. Grade = B-.

 

MULTIMODAL PAIN MANAGEMENT FOLLOWING TOTAL JOINT REPLACEMENTS – The development of pain management protocols which include neuroaxial blocks, regional anesthetic blocks, local anesthetic infiltration by surgeons, oral and intravenous pain medications, have advanced the science of pain relief for total knee and total hip replacements. The cooperation between surgeons, anesthesiologists, and internal medicine specialists to develop the protocols has been outstanding, the standardized checklist care has been well accepted, and patients are benefiting. Grade = A.

 

ULTRASOUND GUIDED REGIONAL ANESTHESIA – Regional anesthetic blocks are not new, but visualizing the nerves via ultrasound is. The practice is becoming widespread, and the analysis of economic and quality data is ongoing. Ultrasound guided regional anesthesia is a major advance for painful orthopedic surgeries, but I worry about overuse of the technique on smaller cases for the economic benefit of the physician wielding the ultrasound probe. A second concern is the additive risk of administrating two anesthetics (regional plus general) to one patient. I’ve reviewed medical records of patients with adverse outcomes related to regional blocks, and I’m concerned ultrasound guided regional anesthesia may be creating a new paradigm of postoperative complications, e.g. prolonged nerve damage or intravascular injection of local anesthetics. In the future I look forward to seeing years of closed claims data regarding this increasing use of regional anesthesia. Grade = B.

 

VIDEOLARYNGOSCOPY – The invention of the GlideScope and its competitors the C-MAC, King Vision, McGrath and Airtraq videolaryngoscopes was a major advance in our ability to intubate patients with difficult airways. My need for fiberoptic intubation has plummeted since videolaryngoscopy became available. I’d recommend that everyone who attempts traditional laryngoscopy for endotracheal intubation have access to a video scope as a backup, should traditional intubation prove difficult. Grade = A.

 

ANESTHESIOLOGIST ASSISTANTS (AAs) – The American Society of Anesthesiologists is championing the idea of training AAs to work with physician anesthesiologists in an anesthesia care team model. A primary reason is to combat the influence and rise in numbers of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) by inserting AAs as a substitute. Not a bad idea, but like the Perioperative Surgical Home, the concept of AAs is gaining traction slowly, and the penetration of AAs into the marketplace is minimal. To date there are only ten accredited AA education programs in the United States. Grade = B-.

 

CHECKLISTS – We now have pre-incision Time Outs, pre-induction Anesthesia Time Outs, and pre-regional anesthesia Block Time Outs. It’s hard to argue with these checklists. Even if 99.9% of the Time Outs change nothing, if 0.1% of the Time Outs identify a miscommunication or a laterality mistake, they are worth it. Grade = A.

 

ANESTHESIA ELECTRONIC MEDICAL RECORDS (EMRs)– The idea is sound. Everything in the modern world is digitalized, so why not medical records? The problem is the current product. There are multiple EMR systems, and the systems cannot communicate with each other. Can you imagine a telephone system where Sprint phones cannot communicate with AT&T phones? The current market leader for hospitals is Epic, a ponderous, expensive system that does little to make the pertinent information easier to find in medical charts. For acute care medicine such as anesthetic emergencies, the medical charting and documentation in Epic gets in the way of hands-on anesthesia care. In the past, when I administered 50 mg of rocuronium, I simply wrote “50” in the appropriate space on a piece of paper. In Epic I have to make at least 4 mouse clicks to do the same thing. This Epic entry cannot be made on a touch screen because the first rocuronium window on the touch screen is a three-millimeter-tall box, too small for a finger touch. I’d like to see Apple or Google develop better EMR software than we have at present. Perhaps the eventual winning product will be voice activated or will involve easy touch screen data entry and data access. And all EMR systems should interact with each other, so patient privacy medical information can be portable. Grade = C-.

 

THE ECONOMICS OF ANESTHESIA – When I began in private practice in 1986, most successful anesthesiologists joined a single-specialty anesthesia group. This group would cover a hospital or several hospitals along with nearby surgery centers and offices. The group would bill for physician services, and insurance companies would reimburse them. Each physician joining the group would endure a one or two-year tryout period, after which he or she became a partner. Incomes were proportional to the number of cases an individual attended to. The models are changing. Smaller anesthesia groups are merging into larger groups, better equipped to negotiate with healthcare insurers and ObamaCare. More and more healthcare systems are employing their own anesthesiologists. In a healthcare system, profits are pooled and shared amongst the varying specialists. This model is not objectionable. Anesthesiologists share the profits with less lucrative specialties such as internal medicine and pediatrics, but the anesthesiologists are assured a steady flow of patients from the primary care physicians and surgeons within the system. The end result is less income than in a single-specialty anesthesia group, but more security. Grade = B.

 

THE SPECTER OF A BAN ON BALANCE BILLING – In a perfect world all physician groups would be contracted with all health insurance companies, at a monetary rate acceptable to both sides. Unfortunately there are insurance company-physician group rifts in which an acceptable rate is not negotiated. In these instances, the physician provider for a given patient may be out of network with the patient’s insurer, not because of provider greed (as portrayed by some politicians and insurers) but because the insurance company did not offer a reasonable contracted rate. Some politicians believe physician out-of-network balance billing should be outlawed. This would give unilateral power to insurance companies. Why would an insurance company offer a reasonable rate to a physician provider group, if the insurance company can pay the physicians a low rate and the new law says the physicians have no alternative but to accept it as payment in full? The no-balance-billing politicians will portray patients as victims, but if they succeed in changing the laws, physicians will become victims. Physicians as well as consumers must unite to defeat this concept. Grade = F.

 

CORPORATE ANESTHESIA – National companies are buying multiple existing anesthesia groups and changing the template of our profession in America. The current physician owners of a practice can sell their group to a publically traded national company for a large upfront payoff. The future salaries of anesthesiologists of that group are then decreased, and the rest of the profit formerly garnered by the physicians goes instead to the bottom line of the national company’s shareholders. If this model becomes widespread, the profession of anesthesiology will morph into a job populated by moderately reimbursed employees. Grade = D.

 

INDEPENDENT PRACTICE FOR CRNAs – Anesthesiology is the practice of medicine. In a two-year training program, an ICU nurse can learn to administer propofol and sevoflurane, and how to intubate most patients, and become a CRNA. It takes a physician anesthesiologist to manage complex preoperative medical problems, intraoperative complications, and postoperative medical complications. I understand rural states such as Montana and the Dakotas cannot recruit enough physician anesthesiologists to hospitals in their smallest towns, but for states like California to legalize independent anesthesia practice for CRNAs is unconscionable. Grade = D.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

ANESTHESIA ERRORS: MALPRACTICE OR NOT?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

If a patient suffers a bad outcome after anesthesia, did the anesthesiologist commit malpractice? If there was an anesthesia error, was it anesthesia malpractice?

medical-malpractice-anesthesia-errors-1-638

Not necessarily. There are risks to every anesthetic and every surgery, and if a patient sustains a complication, it may or may not be secondary to substandard anesthesia care.

Let’s look at the most common reasons for anesthesia malpractice claims. In a study by Ranum,(1) researchers examined a total of 607 closed claims from a single national malpractice insurance company over five years between 2007 and 2012. The most frequent anesthesia-related injuries reported were:

  1.   Teeth damage — 20.8 percent of the anesthesia medical malpractice claims
  2.   Death — 18.3 percent
  3.   Nerve damage — 13.5 percent
  4.   Organ damage — 12.7 percent
  5.   Pain — 10.9 percent
  6.   Cardiopulmonary arrest — 10.7 percent

When the minor claims for teeth damage are omitted, claims for death and cardiopulmonary arrest account for nearly one in four closed claims for anesthesiologists. This shows the severe nature of anesthesia bad outcomes.

How can we discern whether a bad patient outcome is a risk for a malpractice claim?

There are four elements to a medical malpractice claim. They are as follows (2):

  1. Duty to care for the patient. The anesthesiologist must have made a contract to care for the patient. The anesthesiologist meets the patient, takes a history, reviews the chart, does a pertinent physical exam, and discusses the options for anesthetic care. The anesthesiologist then obtains informed consent from the patient to carry out that plan, and the duty to care for the patient is established.
  2. Negligence occurs if the anesthesiologist failed in his or her duty to care, that is, he or she performed below the standard of care. The standard of care is defined as the level of care expected from a reasonably competent anesthesiologist. If a lawsuit is eventually filed, anesthesiology expert witnesses will testify for both the defense and the plaintiff as to what the standard of care was for this case. If the defendant anesthesiologist performed below the standard of care, they are vulnerable to losing the lawsuit.
  3. The plaintiff must prove the negligence was a proximate cause of the injury to the patient. If a lawsuit is eventually filed, expert witnesses will argue how and why the negligence was linked or was not linked to the adverse outcome.
  4. The injury or loss can be measured in monetary compensation to the plaintiff.

Let’s look at two fictional case studies to demonstrate how a bad outcome may or may not be related to anesthesia malpractice:

CASE ONE: A 70-year-old man is scheduled to have laparoscopic abdominal surgery for a partial colectomy to remove a cancer in his large intestine. Prior to his surgery he has a complete history and physical by his internal medicine doctor, and the results of that workup are in the medical chart. The patient medical history is positive for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. His Body Mass Index, or BMI, is elevated at 32. His blood pressure is 140/85, and his physical exam is otherwise unremarkable. Prior to the surgery, the anesthesiologist requests clearance from a cardiologist. The cardiologist performs an exercise stress echocardiogram, which is read as normal. The anesthesiologist plans a general anesthetic, and obtains informed consent from the patient. During the informed consent, the anesthesiologist tells the patient that risks involving the heart, the lungs, or the brain are small but not zero. The patient accepts these risks.

The surgery and anesthesia proceed uneventfully. The patient is awakened from general anesthesia and taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit. The patient is drowsy and responsive, with a blood pressure of 100/60, a heart rate of 95, a respiratory rate of 16, a temperature of 36.0 Centigrade, and an oxygen saturation of 96% on a face mask delivering 50% oxygen. A Bair Hugger blanket is applied to warm the patient, and morphine sulfate 2 mg IV is given for complaint of abdominal pain.

Thirty minutes later, the patient develops acute shortness of breath, and his oxygen saturation drops to 75%. The anesthesiologist sees him and evaluates him. The cause of the shortness of breath and drop in oxygen level are unclear. The concentration of administered oxygen is increased to 100%, but the patient acutely becomes unresponsive. The anesthesiologist intubates the patient’s trachea, and begins ventilating him through the breathing tube. The patient is still unresponsive and has a cardiac arrest. Despite all Advanced Cardiac Life Support treatments, the patient dies.

An expert witness later reviews the chart, and finds the anesthesia management to be within the standard of care prior to, during, and after the surgery. There was no negligence that caused the cardiac arrest. Why did the patient die? The post-mortem exam, or autopsy, in a case like this could show a pulmonary embolism or a myocardial infarction, either of which can occur despite excellent anesthesia care. The patient was elderly, overweight, and hypertensive. Abdominal surgery and general anesthesia in this patient population are not without risk, even with optimal anesthetic care.

CASE TWO: A 55-year old female is scheduled for a facelift at a freestanding plastic surgery center operating room. Her history and physical examination are normal except that she is 5 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds, for a BMI=39. The anesthesiologist plans a general anesthetic, and obtains informed consent from the patient. After the induction of general anesthesia with propofol and rocuronium, the anesthesiologist is unable to place the endotracheal tube in the patient’s windpipe. He tries repeatedly in vain, and during this time the woman’s oxygen saturation drops to dangerous levels below 70%, and remains low for over five minutes. He eventually places the tube successfully. The surgery is cancelled, and the woman fails to wake up. She is transferred to a local hospital and admitted to the intensive care unit. A neurologic workup confirms that she has anoxic brain damage, or brain death.

This is a case where an overweight but otherwise healthy woman walked into a surgery center for an elective surgery, and emerged brain dead. Per the donor card in the patient’s wallet, the family agreed to donate the patient’s organs. Was this outcome due to malpractice? Yes. The anesthesiologist performed below the standard of care, because he failed to keep the patient oxygenated during the multiple attempts to place the breathing tube. An expert witness for the plaintiff testifies that a reasonably competent anesthesiologist would understand and follow the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Difficult Airway Algorithm, and use alternate techniques to keep the patient oxygenated should the endotracheal tube placement be technically difficult. (These techniques include bag-mask ventilation, placement of a laryngeal mask airway, or use of a video laryngoscope). The failure to keep the airway open and the failure to keep the patient oxygenated led to the anoxic brain damage. An expert witness for the defense concurs with this opinion, and the anesthesiologist’s malpractice insurance company settles the case by paying the patient’s family.

Complications can occur before, during, or after anesthesia. The overwhelming majority of physician anesthesiologists manage their patients at or above the standard of care. When an adverse outcome occurs there may very well be no negligence or malpractice, and one should expect the legal system to award little or no malpractice award payments.

Does that mean that if the standards of care are adhered to, then there will be no malpractice payment following a bad outcome? Unfortunately, the data say no.

The ASA Closed Claims Project collects closed anesthesia malpractice claim results from the 1970s to the present. From 1975-79, 74% of anesthesia lawsuits resulted in payment. From 1990-99 this proportion declined to 58%. Much of this positive change may be explained by improvements in standards of care, i.e. the change to the routine monitoring of pulse oximetry and end-tidal carbon dioxide levels. In the 1970s, 51% of the lawsuits in which standards of care were met resulted in payment. In the 1990s only 40% of the lawsuits in which standards of care were met resulted in payment, but 40% is not zero.(3)

Other facts about medical malpractice lawsuits: About 93% of malpractice claims close without going to a trial. The average claim that goes to trial involves a 3 to 5 year process.(4) Of the cases that go to trial, 79% of verdicts are for the defendant physician.(5)

Medical errors do occur. Physicians are human. How common are medical errors in anesthesiology? It’s hard to quantitate. Medical errors that do not result in closed malpractice claims are not tabulated.

The issue of medical errors is currently a hot topic. A report published in the The British Medical Journal this week stated that if medical error was a disease, it would rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States, trailing only heart disease and cancer. Medical error was defined as an unintended act of either omission or commission, or one that does not achieve its intended outcome, the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended (an error of execution), the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim (an error of planning), or a deviation from the process of care that may or may not cause harm to the patient. The authors calculated a mean rate of death from medical error of 251 ,454 cases per year. The authors pointed out that death certificates in the U.S., used to compile national statistics, currently have no facility for acknowledging medical error. The ICD-10 coding system has limited ability to record or capture most types of medical error. The authors recommended that when a medical error resulted in death, both the physiological cause of the death and the related problem with delivery of care should be captured.(6)

Do anesthesiologists commit any of these medical errors? Undoubtedly. What does this mean if you are a patient scheduled for surgery and anesthesia? You should have every expectation your board-certified physician anesthesiologist will practice at or above the standard of care. The chances that you will become an adverse outcome statistic are small, but those chances are not zero.

See my column Do Anesthesiologists Have the Highest Malpractice Insurance Rates? to learn more about malpractice risks and anesthesiologists.

References:

  1. Ranum D, et al, Six anesthesia-related medical malpractice claim statistics. Analysis of patient injury based on anesthesiology closed claims data from a major malpractice insurer, Journal of Healthcare Risk Management Volume 34,Issue 2,pages 31–42,
  2. Tsushima WT, Nakano KK, Effective Medical Testifying: A Handbook for Physicians, 1998, Butterworth-Heinemann.
  3. Posner KL: Data Reveal Trends in Anesthesia Malpractice Payments. ASA Newsletter68(6): 7-8 & 14, 2004.
  4. Chesanow N, Malpractice: When to Settle a Suit and When to Fight. Medscape Business of Medicine, Sept 25, 2013.
  5. Jena AB,, Outcomes of Medical Malpractice Litigation Against US Physicians. Arch Intern Med.2012 Jun 11;172(11).
  6. Makary MA, Daniel M, Medical Error—the Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., BMJ, 2016;353:i2139.

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 170/99?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

LARGE-VOLUME LIPOSUCTION: IS IT SAFE?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

I work in a private practice setting in Palo Alto, California, and liposuction is one of the most common plastic surgery procedures performed. The accepted definition of a large-volume liposuction is a total aspirate of greater than 4 liters.

liposuction-fat

Seventy percent of the total aspirate is fat, so if a total volume of 4 liters is harvested, the total volume of fat is 0.7 X 4, or 2.8 liters. Each liter of liposuction fat weighs approximately 2 pounds, so the weight removed in a 4-liter total-aspirate liposuction is 2.8 liters X 2 pounds/liter = 5.6 pounds.

The current accepted upper limit for fat removed in an outpatient liposuction is 5 liters, so the maximum weight of fat removed would be 5 liters X 2 pounds/liter = 10 pounds.

Early in my career, in the late 1980’s, liposuction was a bloody procedure. Prior to surgery healthy outpatients donated their own autologous blood, which they received intraoperatively to treat the expected hemorrhage which accompanied liposuction.

In the late 1980’s, American dermatologist Jeffery Klein introduced the tumescent technique for liposuction, in which dilute solutions of epinephrine and lidocaine were injected into the subcutaneous tissues prior to liposuction. This technique induced vasoconstriction and resulted in decreased blood loss, and made transfusion and post-operative anemia rare.

The volume of tumescent solution injected by the surgeon is roughly equivalent to the total volume expected to be aspirated from the patient. For a large-volume liposuction, 4 – 7 liters of tumescent solution may be injected into the body areas to be suctioned. The tumescent solution includes 1 mg of epinephrine and 20 ml of 1% lidocaine (200 mg lidocaine) per one liter of Lactated Ringers. The complication of local anesthetic toxicity from lidocaine is rare. The maximum dose of lidocaine should be kept < 35 mg/kg, or < 2450 mg for a 70 kg (154 pound) patient. If the surgeon injects six liters, this will total only 1200 mg of lidocaine. Symptoms of epinephrine toxicity are also rare.

Preanesthetic assessment and patient selection are key for safe large-volume liposuction procedures. All patients are ASA I or II, and have stable medical histories. Our facility requires each patient to weigh less than 250 pounds, or to have a BMI < 36. Preoperative labs and ECGs are done only as needed, per standard Ambulatory Surgery Center policies. The procedures are done under general endotracheal anesthesia, and can last from 3 to 8 hours. Our facility, the Plastic Surgery Center in Palo Alto, has two operating rooms. At times the second room is not occupied, and a solo anesthesiologist is the only anesthesia professional present on site and must be prepared to handle any and all emergencies.

A protocol for large-volume liposuction at our facility is as follows:

  1. General anesthesia is induced. An endotracheal tube rather than a supraglottic airway is used. Many procedures involve both supine and prone positioning because anterior and posterior parts of the body are liposuctioned. A Foley catheter is inserted into the bladder.
  2. After prepping and draping, the surgeon injects the tumescent solution into the areas to be liposuctioned. The total volume of the injectate must not exceed 10 liters. In most cases, the total volume of the injectate does not exceed 6 liters.
  3. The liposuction proceeds. The typical aspirate is a mixture of fat and tumescent fluid, with minimal bloody or reddish tinge. The total volume of fat aspirated is not to exceed 5 liters. The ratio of fat/total aspirate in each container is 0.7. If a total of 7 liters of liposuction aspirate is harvested, the total volume of fat is 7 X 0.7, or 4.9 liters.
  4. Fluid intake and output must be balanced. The total intake includes 6 liters of tumescent Lactated Ringers, plus intravenous fluids. Usually the volume of intravenous fluid is kept to less than 1 liter. The output equals the total aspirate volume of 7 liters in this case, plus the urine output. If the urine output is less than 0.5 ml/kg/hour, the diuretic furosemide 10 mg can be administered IV.
  5. Maintaining normothermia is challenging. Large-volume liposuction usually requires exposure of the patient’s body surface from the lower thorax to the knees to room air temperature. Twin Bair Huggers are used to warm both the lower and upper non-operative fields of the patient’s body.
  6. At the conclusion of surgery, constricting garments are applied to the patient’s body to reduce edema and bleeding. General anesthesia is continued until these garments are applied.
  7. Patients are discharged home after a typical PACU time of 75-120 minutes.

 

How safe is large-volume liposuction?

Palo Alto plastic surgeon George Commons and anesthesiologist Bruce Halperin published a retrospective review on 631 consecutive patients from 1986–1998 who underwent liposuction procedures of at least 3 liters total aspirate.(1) Total aspirate volumes ranged from 3 to 17 liters. Complications consisted of minor skin injuries and burns, allergic reactions to garments, and postoperative seromas. Only four patients of 631 (0.6%) developed serious complications, including four patients with mild pulmonary edema and one patient who developed pneumonia postoperatively. These patients were treated appropriately and had uneventful recoveries.

A retrospective study from Germany reported on 2275 large-volume liposuction patients from 1998-2002 in which there were 72 cases of severe complications (3.1%), including 23 deaths.(2) The most frequent complications were bacterial infections (necrotizing fasciitis, gas gangrene, and sepsis), hemorrhage, perforation of abdominal viscera, and pulmonary embolism. Fifty-seven of the 72 complications were clinically evident within the first 24 postoperative hours. Risk factors for the development of severe complications were insufficient standards of hygiene, infiltration of multiple liters of tumescent solution, permissive postoperative discharge, selection of unfit patients, and lack of surgical experience, especially regarding the identification of complications. The striking 1% mortality rate of this series documents that liposuction was dangerous in Germany between 1998 and 2002.

A review of 127,961 cosmetic surgery cases in the U.S. in 2016 showed a 0.9% complication rate in liposuction patients. Overweight patients (BMI = 25-29.9) and obese patients (BMI ≥ 30) were both independent risk factors for post-operative infection and venous thromboembolism.

In a series from Illinois, 69 of 4534 (1.5 percent) of liposuction patients in experienced a postoperative complication.(4) Both the liposuction volume and the patient’s BMI were significant independent risk factors. Liposuction volumes in excess of 100 ml per unit of body mass index were an independent predictor of complications (p < 0.001).

In experienced hands, the major morbidity of large-volume liposuction should be low—no more than the complication rates of 0.6 – 1.5% reported from the United States above. As long as there are patients who desire less fat in their thighs, hips, buttocks, abdomen, knees, arms, or necks, there will be a demand for liposuction. Large-volume liposuction requires an anesthesia professional who’s comfortable managing the perioperative medicine. If you’re considering this surgical procedure, my recommendation is to seek both a surgeon and an anesthesia team who are well trained and experienced.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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*
*

Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

THE PERILS OF INTERNET MEDICINE

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

The printing press was the most influential invention of the last millennium. Now individuals use computers to search for Internet medical knowledge.

THE PRINTING PRESS AND THE REFORMATION . . . , THE INTERNET AND MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE

The book 1000 years, 1000 People by Agnes and Henry Gottlieb identifies Johannes Gutenberg as the most influential person during the millennium 1000-1999 AD.Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press in the 1440’s. The Printing Revolution played a key role in the onset of the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the rise in literacy, and the spread of ideas and learning throughout the world. The Bible in 1455 was the first book printed in mass quantities, and Christianity was forever changed. Prior to the printing press, the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church possessed most of the handwritten copies of the Bible. Parishioners didn’t read the Bible—their priests did. Sunday sermons were weekly tutorials teaching church-goers the lessons inside the Bible. As soon as the Bible was printed in large quantities, the masses had access to read the book themselves, and the masses had the opportunity to question the Catholic Church’s interpretations. In 1517 Martin Luther published The Ninety-Five Theses and nailed them to the door of the Wittenberg Church, a development acknowledged to have begun the Protestant Reformation, and the Catholic Church’s monopoly on Christian dogma was challenged.

Beginning in the 1990’s a comparable world-changing event occurred, as the widespread ownership of inexpensive and powerful personal computers allowed individuals to access the Internet. According to the Internet World Stats website in the 21 years since 1995, Internet use has grown 100-fold, and currently one-third of the world’s population has online access.

Just as the printing press made the Bible available to the masses, the Internet makes medical knowledge available to the masses. Prior to the Internet, medical knowledge was primarily confined to medical textbooks and journals, read exclusively by medical professionals. A few non-medical professionals wrote articles in magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias to explain medical facts, diagnoses, and therapy to the lay public, but the overwhelming majority of the information was only presented to doctors and nurses in the form of medical books and journals.

The Internet has expanded the availability of medical information. Tens of thousands of medical websites exist, and laypeople surf the Internet for medical facts daily.  Bupa Health Plus  conducted a study in twelve countries, and found nearly 50% of the people seeking medical information on the Internet do so to make a self-diagnosis, and 75% of these individuals did nothing to check the accuracy of the online medical advice. In addition, some patients seek medical knowledge to decide whether they need to see a doctor or not.

Nowadays when patients arrive at a doctor’s office for an initial visit regarding a problem, it’s not uncommon for them to be armed with plentiful information on what their diagnosis might be, what their diagnostic workup should be, and what treatment options they want to have. Nowadays when patients arrive at the hospital for surgery, it’s not uncommon for them to be armed with abundant information on their disease, their pending operation, and even their anesthesia options.

Prior to the Internet, patients had to trust in the knowledge and experience of their doctors to direct the appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic regimen. Now it’s routine for patients to do their Internet homework before they see the doctor.

Some medical websites are invaluable. The National Library of Medicine website PubMed lists the abstracts of all medical publications online for free. Physicians can search by author’s name or other key words. Lay people can access and search medical information with this powerful tool as well.

Other websites are less reliable. There is no quality control regarding medical information on the Internet. Anyone can put medical information on a Web server, and the information posted may be incorrect or outdated. Medical websites may present fraudulent or deceptive information, often in an attempt to sell a product or a service. How can the public discern whether the medical information on the Internet is reliable? In his article Snake Oil: The Accuracy of Medical Information on the Internet Snake Oil: The Accuracy of Medical Information on the Internet, Dr. VN Reddy lists the following advice regarding choosing medical websites:

  1. Ask your doctor to suggest sites he or she thinks are well-written and accurate.
  1. Browse the medical professional organizations’ websites. For example, the American Society of Anesthesiologists or the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  1. Browse public-health websites, such as those by the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or the National Institutes of Health.
  1. Check each website you read for the author’s name and qualifications and the date when the page was last revised.

A  National Institutes of Health website identifies the following key points to determine whether an online source of medical information is reliable:

  1. Any website should make it easy for you to learn who is responsible for the site and its information.
  2. If the person or organization in charge of the website did not write the material, the website should clearly identify the original source of the information.
  3. Health-related websites should give information about the medical credentials of the people who have prepared or reviewed the material on the site.
  4. Any website that asks you for personal information should explain exactly what the site will and will not do with that information.
  5. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission are federal government agencies that help protect consumers from false or misleading health claims on the Internet.

The Internet is a valuable tool to expand your medical knowledge. I use it every day, and I probably learn more from the Internet than from any other source. However, this valuable tool must come with a disclaimer. In the 20th Century we were warned, “don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper. Today that advice can be expanded to “don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” Read only reputable medical websites for your medical information, and above all, rely on your own doctor(s) to manage your medical problems.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

WAS JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA’S DEATH FROM OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was unexpected. I’ve never examined Justice Scalia, never had access to his medical records, and have no information other than what has been published over the Internet regarding the events of the last 24 hours of his life. According to published news reports, APNewsBreak: Justice Scalia Suffered From Many Health Problems, the Justice suffered from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hypertension.

220px-antonin_scalia_scotus_photo_portrait

As an experienced anesthesiologist, I’ve personally watched over 25,000 patients sleep during my career. Thousands of these patients carried the diagnosis of OSA. I’ve witnessed first hand what happens when a patient with OSA obstructs their airway and stops breathing during sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic condition of cyclic obstruction of the upper airway during sleep, usually combined with excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring.Apnea is the medical word for the suspension or stopping of breathing. Observation of at least five obstructive events (apneic events) per hour of sleep during a formal sleep study is a minimal criterion for diagnosing OSA in adults.

Let’s discuss a hypothetical male patient. He is 79 years old, overweight, and has a thick neck. Perhaps he is a Supreme Court Justice, and perhaps he is not. Because of his age and his body habitus, he’s at risk for the diagnosis of OSA, but we have no knowledge of any sleep study to document this.

We’re going to sedate this patient for a medical procedure. Intravenous sedative drugs will include some combination of a benzodiazepine such as Versed, a narcotic such as fentanyl, and a hypnotic such as propofol. The procedure does not require a breathing tube, so we’ll administer the sedation and be vigilant regarding what happens to the patient’s vital signs. As with all anesthetics, the patient will be fully monitored for heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, and exhaled carbon dioxide level.

This is what happens when we administer strong sedatives to this hypothetical male patient who is 79 years old, overweight, and who has a thick neck:

  1. With the onset of sleep, the rate of breathing becomes slower and the volume of each breath decreases.
  2. Because of the decrease in ventilation, the oxygen saturation level will drop.
  3. As anesthesiologists, we administer oxygen via nasal cannula or via a mask, and the oxygen saturation will increase to a safe level again.
  4. If we progress to administering deeper sedation, the patient’s airway will obstruct. Typically this occurs because the base of the tongue drops back and occludes the airway, or redundant tissue in the oral pharynx relaxes and occludes the airway. With partial obstruction, we hear the patient snore, but ventilation continues. With total obstruction, the patient’s chest moves in an attempt to draw in a breath, but there is no ventilation through the obstructed upper airway.
  5. If this airway obstruction is not remedied, the oxygen saturation will drop below a safe level of 90%. At these low blood oxygen levels, the brain and heart will be deprived of necessary oxygen. A prolonged low blood oxygen level can lead to life threatening cardiac dysrhythmias or a cardiac arrest.
  6. With a physician anesthesiologist present, the airway obstruction is relieved by applying a jaw lift, extending the patient’s neck, inserting an oral airway, or inserting an airway tube.
  7. Without an anesthesiologist present, the patient could die.

In a related scenario, what if our hypothetical male patient who is 79 years old, overweight, and who has a thick neck doesn’t have medical sedation, but rather has a long busy day at 4,400 feet of altitude, and perhaps consumes alcohol with its attendant sedative effects, along with perhaps a sleeping pill or an oral narcotic analgesic taken to relieve the symptoms of a painful shoulder ailment? All of these factors (fatigue, altitude, alcohol, medications) serve to make a patient more sedated. Heavy sleep accompanied by snoring ensues. The partial airway obstruction of snoring progresses to the total airway obstruction of obstructive sleep apnea. The blood oxygen level drops, the heart is denied adequate oxygen delivery, and the patient suffers a cardiac arrhythmia and then a cardiac arrest.

Is this a “heart attack?”

Every one of us will die one day, and every one of our deaths will be accompanied by a heart that ceases to beat. The cause of the “heart attack” will differ for each of us. If someone has significant narrowing of a major coronary artery and attempts to run up a mountain, this event may increase the oxygen demand of the heart and precipitate a lethal heart rhythm. When a hypothetical male patient who is 79 years old, overweight, and who has a thick neck dies in the middle of the night, you can bet the cessation of the heart beat was due to airway obstruction and inadequate oxygen to the heart.

According to APNewsBreak, on the morning the Justice was found dead “a breathing apparatus was found on the night stand next to Scalia’s bed when his body was found, but he was not hooked up to it and it was not turned on.” Most likely this was a CPAP machine, or a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. A CPAP machine includes a mask which the patient straps over their nose or over their nose and mouth prior to going to sleep. The CPAP machine delivers a stream of compressed air via a hose to the nose mask or the full-face mask, splinting the airway to keep it open under air pressure so unobstructed breathing becomes possible. The main problem with a CPAP machine is non-compliance, that is, the patient refuses to wear it. This was seemingly the case with Justice Scalia’s last night.

A take home message from this column is to respect the specter of OSA in your own life and in the lives of your loved ones. If you are a physician, respect the specter of OSA in your patients. Persons with an increased risk of OSA include people older than 60 years of age, patients with hypertension, prior strokes, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, obesity, or the metabolic syndrome including hyperlipidemia and diabetes. The most common symptoms are excessive daytime sleepiness and loud snoring. Persons who fit this profile should undergo a formal sleep study to screen for OSA. Most formal sleep studies require overnight monitoring of breathing patterns and oxygen saturation. The studies are not cheap, so screening every elderly obese snorer in America would be expensive. However, a diagnosis of OSA can lead to a cascade of effective therapies, including:  1) an oral orthodontic appliance to keep the jaw advanced, or 2) a continuous positive airway pressure machine to be worn while sleeping, or 3) airway surgeries on the palate, uvula, mandible, and/or maxilla, or 4) aggressive treatment of the OSA comorbidities of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that 25 million Americans may have OSA, and up to 90 percent of these patients are undiagnosed.

Questions will continue to swirl around the circumstances of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. Was there a pillow over his head, as was first described by John Poindexter, the owner of the ranch who first discovered Scalia’s body? Were sedating medications or alcohol present in his bloodstream? Why did Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara pronounce Scalia dead of natural causes without even seeing the body? Why was no autopsy ordered? Was the Justice murdered, as if this was the plot of some John Grisham legal thriller?

We may never know the answers to these questions, but query most any anesthesiologist about the likelihood that OSA was involved in the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, and the answer you will get is . . .

“Yes, with a high degree of medical probability, obstructive sleep apnea is what killed Justice Antonin Scalia.”

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

DOES GENERAL ANESTHESIA CAUSE DEMENTIA?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

 

Does exposure to general anesthesia cause dementia?

In a word, “No.”

dementia2075

A landmark study published in Anesthesiology Dokkedal U et al, Cognitive Functioning after Surgery in Middle-aged and Elderly Danish Twins. Anesthesiology. 2016 Feb;124(2):312-21  answers this question. Dokkedal studied 8,503 middle-aged and elderly Danish twins. Results from cognitive tests were compared in twins in which one sibling was exposed to surgery and the other was not. A history of major surgery was associated with a negligibly lower level of cognitive functioning, but there was no difference by interpair analysis, that is, when compared to their twin. There was no clinically significant association of major surgery and anesthesia with long-term cognitive dysfunction, suggesting that factors other than surgery and anesthesia, such as preoperative cognitive functioning and underlying diseases, were more important for cognitive functioning in mid- and late life than surgery and anesthesia.

(For readers who are not medical professionals, cognitive function includes reasoning, memory, attention, and language, the attainment of information and, thus, knowledge. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia equate to a chronic loss of these cognitive functions.)

Because Dokkedal’s study looked at a large number of patients, and each of these patients had a twin, it is considered a statistically powerful study.

A second recent study published in the same month, (Sprung J et. al., Association of Mild Cognitive Impairment With Exposure to General Anesthesia for Surgical and Nonsurgical Procedures: A Population-Based Study. Mayo Clin Proc. 2016 Feb;91(2):208-17)  examined 1731 Minnesota residents aged 70 – 89. Of these, 536 out of the 1731 developed Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) during a median follow-up of 4.8 years. All of their anesthesia records for surgeries after the age of 40 were reviewed. The authors found no significant association between the cumulative exposure to surgical anesthesia after 40 years of age and the development of Mild Cognitive Impairment.

In an editorial accompanying the Dokkedal study, (Avidan MS, Evers AS, The Fallacy of Persistent Postoperative Cognitive Decline, Anesthesiology. 2016 Feb:124(2);255-258.) Avidan and Evers wrote, “It is similarly tragic when adults older than 50 yr forego quality of life-enhancing surgery based largely on hypothesis-generating cohort studies and a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy dating to a 1955 report by Bedford in the Lancet, which suggested that persistent Postoperative Cognitive Decline was a concern following complaints from patients and their families regarding problems with cognitive function after surgery. . . . older patients should today be reassured that surgery and anesthesia are unlikely to be implicated in causing persistent cognitive decline or incident dementia.”

This editorial exposes the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, i.e. after this, therefore because of this, which has in the past led individuals to postulate that because a patient shows cognitive decline after surgery and anesthesia, that the cognitive decline must have been caused by surgery and anesthesia.

The authors of the editorial also admit that the first time detection of cognitive decline or dementia can be noted postoperatively for several reasons, including 1) cognitive decline or dementia are common in an aging population, approximately 50% of patients over the age of 60 undergo surgery, and the cognitive decline or dementia may first be detected at a time following surgery; 2) the preoperative trajectory of cognitive decline or dementia is rarely assessed, and postoperative cognitive decline or dementia is a continuation of the preoperative decline; 3) rapid onset cognitive decline or dementia can occur, and at times this decline will manifest and coincide with the time following surgery and anesthesia; and 4) it is difficult to change a firmly held conviction of past researchers, clinicians, and the general public that cognitive decline or dementia are caused by surgery and anesthesia.

The take home message is this: If you or one of your loved ones are over the age of 60 and need a surgical procedure to improve the quality of life, there should be no reluctance to have the surgery because of the fear of postoperative cognitive decline or dementia.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

DSC04882_edited

 

 

12 THINGS TO KNOW AS YOU NEAR THE END OF YOUR ANESTHESIA TRAINING

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

The most difficult challenge for any anesthesiologist is the transition from the end of anesthesia residency into the beginning of your first job. You’re on your at the hospital, sometimes on weekend nights, and sometimes at 3 a.m.

In “Subterranean Homesick Blues” Bob Dylan wrote, Twenty years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift. 

For anesthesiologists, it’s more like twenty-five years of training and they put you on the night shift. Alone.

bobdylanlookwiki

Every anesthesiologist walks a long road before they finish their education. This includes thirteen years to finish high school, four years of college, four years of medical school, a year of internship, three years of anesthesia residency training, and possibly an extra year of a subspecialty fellowship.

When I finished my training I was naïve about what was around the corner. I had no physicians in my family and no older physicians as close friends. I learned my lessons in real time on the front lines. As you near the end of that twenty-fifth year of education, here’s a list of twelve things you should know before you leave the cocoon of academia and venture out into the job market as an anesthesiologist:

  1. Your professors won’t find you a job. Their role is to teach anesthesia, to take care of patients, and to do research. They are not guidance counselors. Most of them are academics who either enjoy teaching or who enjoy the university faculty lifestyle. If they knew of or coveted a private practice job themselves, they would have taken one themselves long ago. You’ll likely have to find a job yourself. Your professors are of significant value when you are being considered for a specific job, because they can give your prospective employer a positive evaluation of you.
  2. You’ll find job listings on the Internet. Apply for jobs you have interest in. Don’t be surprised if most of these posted jobs have a problem such as low pay, an undesirable location, a dead end career track, or (let me say it again) low pay. The more jobs you look into, the better you’ll understand the marketplace. You’ll learn from every unsuccessful inquiry. Why are jobs posted on Internet sites usually inferior jobs? See #4 below.
  3. The best job opportunities are communicated by word of mouth. For example, imagine that an excellent group needs a new anesthesiologist with an emphasis in regional anesthesia. Members of that group will communicate with acquaintances at local university training programs or with top national university training programs, and ask for the names of recommended candidates. You want people to recommend you. It’s an old boy’s club of sorts (except that it includes men and women). You’ll get called up when the old boys agree that you’re the one they want.
  4. If there’s a hospital location or an anesthesia group you’re particularly interested in, but they are not advertising a job opening. don’t waste your time writing them a letter with your curriculum vitae attached. The letter will be discarded. Instead, make phone calls. Find out who the leader of the group is, and call the operating room or the anesthesia company’s phone number. If they are unavailable, leave a message. Repeat in a week or so until you make contact. If they never call you back, so be it. But if you apply this strategy to multiple different jobs, you will connect with a real human voice, and you’ll have the opportunity to sell yourself over the phone.
  5. Make as many personal contacts as you can with anesthesiologists who are already in private or community practice. Ask them questions when you can, and once you’ve landed a new job, connect with one of your new colleagues so they can serve as your mentor for the early career years. You’ll need to transition from a trainee mentored by professors to a graduated anesthesiologist mentored by a doctor who’s already out there in anesthesia practice.
  6. Retain at least one close contact with a former faculty member, so you can ask questions of them as well after you are out in community practice. The theme here is build bridges with new colleagues, and never burn bridges with your old teachers.
  7. You’ll have to pass your board examinations. My advice is to read every word of Miller’s Anesthesia prior to your oral boards. It’s a terrific book, and this is the one time in your career that you’ll be motivated to have encyclopedic knowledge of your specialty.
  8. Along with book learning, find opportunities to take mock oral exams from faculty at your training program. Stanford conducts twice-yearly mock oral exams, using the identical format that the American Board of Anesthesiology uses. See my column ADVICE FOR PASSING THE ORAL BOARD EXAMS IN ANESTHESIOLOGY. If you read Miller’s Anesthesia and undergo mock oral training, you’ll pass the board exams and you’ll become board-certified in anesthesiology—a requirement for all top shelf jobs.
  9. Think “Airway – Airway – Airway.” Airway –Breathing – Circulation, or A – B – C, describes the core management of critical care situations in the operating room, the emergency room, or the ICU. Of these three, the one that can get a new graduate (or any anesthesiologist) in a heap of trouble in less than five minutes is a botched airway. Be extremely careful and vigilant regarding all issues of airway management, both at times of intubation and extubation. Faulty judgment which leads to three minutes of hypoxia for your patient could severely harm your patient and change your life. Learn the ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm, and read AVOIDING AIRWAY DISASTERS IN ANESTHESIA. Avoid an airway disaster at all costs.
  10. Find a reliable recipe for each common type of anesthetic, hone it, and stick to it. The early career years are not about doing “interesting” anesthetics, they are about doing safe, predictable anesthetics with safe outcomes.
  11. Private practice surgeons are fast. Avoid the high doses of narcotics and muscle relaxants you used on those tediously long university cases. These will be overdoses in private practice, and your patients will be slow to wake up.
  12. Learn how anesthesia billing is done. Learn how money is distributed to new anesthesiologists in a prospective job, and how your income will change over the years at that job. A quality job will have a path to partnership, where you will earn as much as the senior members of the group do at this point in time.

 

Good luck, happy job searching, and may your patients all be safe!

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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*
*
*

Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

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Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

You’re scheduled to anesthetize an NFL quarterback for a shoulder arthroscopy and rotator cuff repair. The patient earns $20 million dollars per year for throwing footballs. Would you feel comfortable inserting a needle into his neck to do a regional anesthetic? Would you feel comfortable doing an interscalene block on an NFL quarterback as part of his anesthetic?

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Regional anesthesia is a growing frontier in modern clinical anesthesia, in part because of the availability of ultrasonic imaging to help us direct needle placement. The subspecialty of regional anesthesia has blossomed. Listening to some of its disciples, it would seem that nearly every orthopedic surgery procedure can benefit from an ultrasonic regional block for intraoperative and postoperative pain control.

Anesthesiology News (Hardman D, July 2015, 41:7) recently reviewed the topic of nerve injury after peripheral nerve block. Data shows that the risk for permanent or severe nerve injury after peripheral nerve blocks is low. Per the article, the prevalence of permanent injury rates as defined by a neurologic abnormality present at or beyond 12 months after the procedure, ranges from 0.029% to 0.2%.

Low, but not zero.

There is a high incidence of temporary postoperative neurologic symptoms after arthroscopic shoulder surgery, whether the patient received a regional block or not. The incidence of temporary neurologic symptoms during the first week ranged as high as 16% to 30%. Most of these involved minor sensory symptoms such as paresthesias and dysesthesias.

An incidence of 16% to 30% is a remarkably high number.

Data from a clinical registry at the Mayo Clinic for total shoulder arthroplasty from 1993 to 2007 demonstrated a peripheral nerve injury rate of 3.7% following general anesthesia in contrast to a peripheral nerve injury rate of 1.7% in patients who received an interscalene block (Sviggum HP, et al. Perioperative nerve injury after total shoulder arthroplasty: assessment of risk after regional anesthesia. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2012;37:490-494). It’s striking that the patients with general anesthesia had MORE peripheral nerve injuries than patients who had an interscalene block.

Over 97% of the patients who developed peripheral nerve injury recovered completely or partially at 2.5 years after the procedure. Seventy-one percent experienced full recovery, which means that 29% did not experience full recovery.

Given this information, would you give the NFL quarterback a general anesthetic or would you include an interscalene block?

I submit that no anesthesia provider would feel comfortable inserting a needle in the neck of this $20 million-dollar-a-year man. No anesthesia provider would feel comfortable doing an interscalene block for his shoulder arthroscopy. Why not? Even though the above data show that peripheral nerve injury can occur following shoulder arthroscopy with either general or interscalene anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will likely be sued only if he or she performs the interscalene anesthesia.

A plaintiff lawyer will be quick to link the needle in the patient’s neck to the nerve damage, if the damages are the NFL player’s inability to earn his $20 million per year, and the anesthesiologist will be sued. If there is peripheral nerve injury following a general anesthetic, expect the surgeon to be sued.

It’s that simple. With peripheral nerve injury following general anesthesia, the surgeon will incur the medical malpractice risk because shoulder arthroscopy has its own risks for nerve injury. Risks include: 1) traction on the brachial plexus due to positioning during surgery, 2) irrigating fluid extravasation causing tissue edema compressing the brachial plexus and peripheral nerves, or 3) arthroscopic portals damaging nerves.

Ultrasound-guided blocks have many advantages, but there is no sufficient evidence demonstrating a lower neurologic complication rate with this technique.(Liu SS, et al. A prospective, randomized controlled trial comparing ultrasound versus nerve stimulator guidance for interscalene block for ambulatory shoulder surgery for postoperative neurological symptoms. Anesth Analg. 2009;109:265-271).

The explosion of regional anesthesia is relatively recent, and the medical malpractice fallout of this explosion is yet to be understood. We may find a trail of anesthesia closed claims related to nerve injuries that lasted over one year, especially if the patient did not receive explicit informed consent that permanent nerve damage was a risk of the nerve block.

If the risk of a limb-harming peripheral nerve injury is prohibitive for an NFL player, why is the risk acceptable for the rest of our patients? Is it because an accountant or a fireman who is a recreational tennis player or golfer is less likely to sue the anesthesiologist if a peripheral nerve injury occurs?

A 2007 survey of academic regional anesthesiologists indicated that nearly 40% of respondents did not disclose the risks of long-term and disabling neurologic injury prior to performing peripheral nerve blocks.( Brull R, et al. Disclosure of risks associated with regional anesthesia: a survey of academic regional anesthesiologists. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2007;32:7-11)

It’s more difficult to sell an “optional” peripheral nerve block if you disclose to the patient the risks for long-term nerve damage. However, if you do not disclose the risks of long-term nerve damage, you will be vulnerable to a lawsuit should nerve damage occur.

We’ll need to review the anesthesia closed claims data for peripheral nerve injuries in five or ten years time to see how many successful lawsuits were generated by the current crescendo in the performance peripheral nerve blocks. Until that time, I recommend honest and complete informed consent to all your patients regarding the non-zero risks of permanent nerve damage related to peripheral nerve blocks.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

WOULD YOU GIVE AN NFL QUARTERBACK A PERIPHERAL NERVE BLOCK?

SERIALIZATION OF THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN… CHAPTER FIVE

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

5) BOB DYLAN DRIVE

In Northern Minnesota, a “Ranger” is an inhabitant of the mining towns along the Mesabi, Vermillion, and Cuyuna Iron Ranges. Unlike a mountain range, a Minnesota iron range has no elevated topography, no grand vistas and no snow-capped peaks. An iron range is a geological phenomenon, named for the deposits of rich iron-laden minerals just beneath the earth’s surface. Rangers take great pride in their iron mines. They’ll tell you the American ships, tanks, and planes which won World Wars I and II were constructed from steel that originated in these Minnesota mines. No tunnels are required to mine Minnesota ore—a mere scraping of the top layer of trees and topsoil is all that’s needed to expose the largest deposits of iron-containing rock in the United States.

Johnny and I passed the open pit of the Pillsbury Mine, five miles outside of Hibbing. Deep in the concavity of mines like this one, electric shovels the size of small office buildings excavated the iron-containing taconite rock, while the largest dump trucks on Earth carried 240-ton loads of rock to the mining factories on the edges of pit.

Johnny pointed to a solitary billboard standing in the woods on the left side of the highway, and said, “Whoa, check that out.” The billboard depicted a giant fetus in utero. The caption read, Hello world. My heart was beating 18 days after conception.

“Hmm. Disturbing,” Johnny said. “What’s the point of that?”

“Some folks up here don’t believe in abortion. They believe life begins in the womb. I guess they pay for billboards to try to sway people to their way of thinking.”

Two more curves up the road, the town of Hibbing spread out before us. A row of boxy stucco homes stood shoulder to shoulder, their canted roofs covered with fresh snow. A silver water tower bearing the stenciled name HIBBING crested a hilltop behind them. Our journey was at an end.

Bob Dylan once wrote, “Hibbing’s a good ol’ town… I ran away from it when I was 10, 12, 13, 15, 15 ½, 17 an’ 18. I been caught an’ brought back all but once.” I followed a similar path. I blew out of this town years ago, and clawed my way to a better life in California. I vowed never to return. That was before I had a son, a son who needed Hibbing.

I turned onto Howard Street, the main thoroughfare, and drove along the downtown strip of commercial buildings. Neon lights flashed the names of two banks, three restaurants, three taverns, and a liquor store. Six inches of new-fallen snow covered the surface of the two-laned street. Our tires made a scrunching sound as we drove. Mounds of ice and snow lined the perimeter of the road like levees isolating the street from the storefronts.

The vista was familiar, and it saddened me. Hibbing was unchanged from the Januarys of my youth. A woman dressed in a bulky goose-down parka crossed Howard Street in front of us, her scarf trailing in the wind behind her. I slowed to let her pass. She tested the snow-covered surface with exacting steps. Johnny followed the parka-clad woman’s progress in wordless wonder.

I drove the 12-block length of Howard Street and made a left turn onto 1st Avenue, the second of Hibbing’s two main business routes. Similar to Howard Street, 1st Avenue was home to three gas stations, four more bars, and two liquor stores.

“What do you think?” I said.

“There’s not much here,” Johnny said. “It looks like a ghost town. Black and white. Dark buildings and white snow. Lots of bars and liquor stores.”

“Alcohol is a tonic against the tedium. It’s a long winter up here.”

“Iron miners drink a lot?”

“As long as there have been mining towns, there have been mining towns with taverns. But Hibbing is different. There are a lot of educated people here. Remember, this is the biggest urban area between Duluth and Winnipeg.”

Johnny laughed. “That’s not saying much, Daddy-O.”

I turned off 1st Avenue and drove through six blocks of humble residential neighborhoods until I reached 7th Avenue, a narrow tunnel between rows of stark leafless trees. Stocky two-story homes lined up behind the trees like chess pieces behind pawns. Windows were miniscule. Walls were thick. The buildings were efficient barricades for holding in heat against brutal conditions. Hibbing houses weren’t built for style; they were built to protect people from bitter cold.

After five or six blocks, the 7th Avenue street signs changed, and read Bob Dylan Drive. I parked the car when we reached the corner of 24th Street and Bob Dylan Drive. The corner house was a two-story grey cube lacking a single gable. Foot-long icicles hung from the roofline. No sign or placard designated the structure as a famous building.

“Why are we stopped here?” Johnny said.

“This was Bob Dylan’s house.”

“This was where he was born?”

“No. He was born in Duluth, 75 miles south of here. His parents moved to this house when Dylan was a boy. His real name was Robert Zimmerman, and this was his home back in 1959 when he graduated from Hibbing High School.”

“So it’s not a museum or anything.” Johnny craned his neck to take in the particulars of the scene.

“No. It’s someone’s residence. I don’t know who lives here now, but it’s just a regular house.”

As I spoke, a man came out of the front door. He tightened the hood of his parka against the wind and aimed a shovel at the snow on the walkway. After his second shovelful, he stopped and looked up at us in our bashed-in BMW. A $120,000 German sports car with a smashed-in front end and California license plates couldn’t be commonplace in Hibbing in January. On the other hand, I suspect an out-of-town vehicle perusing the old Zimmerman home was not unusual. Muslims made pilgrimages to Mecca. Dylan fans made pilgrimages to Hibbing.

The shoveler wore his hood pulled down over his eyebrows and a brown scarf wrapped snug over his mouth. Only his eyes were exposed to the frigid air. He continued to stare at Johnny and me.

Behind my windshield, I felt like a goldfish inside an aquarium. To ease the awkwardness of the moment, I waved at the man. The resident of 2425 Bob Dylan Drive only exhaled steam into the frigid Minnesota air. He did not wave back.

“Friendly guy,” Johnny said.

“Cut him some slack. I’ll bet every day some dude from New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, England or Italy knocks on this guy’s door and asks him if they can take a tour of the house. It must get old.”

“Let’s get out of here,” Johnny said.

I put the car in gear and drove thirty seconds down the road to the intersection of Bob Dylan Drive and 21st Street. To our right, an imposing three-story red brick fortress sprawled over four square blocks. It was easily the largest building in town.

Johnny craned his neck up at the structure, and said, “What’s this?”

“This is your new school.”

“It looks like a castle. How can they have such a monster school in such a little town?”

“A hundred years ago the town of Hibbing was located two miles north of here. When the mining companies discovered the richest supply of iron ore in the United States in the soil below the existing town, they cut a deal. The mining companies agreed to move the entire village and build Hibbing this wonderful high school in the new location as a reward for being relocated. C’mon, let’s go take a look.”

We walked up the front steps of the high school. I touched the brass railing with my bare hand, just like I had when I was 17 years old. At that moment, I was proud of my roots and proud of my alma mater. The front door was unlocked, and we stepped inside. The entryway was adorned with a tiled mosaic floor, a majestic marble staircase, and original oil paintings and murals on the walls depicting the history of the Iron Range.

“It looks like a museum,” Johnny said.

“See that plaque? This building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Wait until you see the auditorium.”

We walked to the end of the main hallway and passed through a set of double doors into the auditorium, an Art Deco wonder adorned by cut-glass chandeliers built in Czechoslovakia, and modeled after the ornate Capitol Theater in New York City. With a capacity of 1,800, the auditorium could seat every student in the school at once.

“This is where I received my high school diploma. And this is where Bob Dylan first performed and sang in public. They say he banged on the piano like a Little Richard clone.”

Johnny said nothing. He was biting the nails of his right hand, and he looked nervous.

“You OK?” I said.

“I don’t know. Now that I see this place, I’m getting worried. What if it doesn’t work out for me here? I mean, wherever I go, I’m still Johnny Antone. What if I’m in the middle of the pack here, just like I was in Palo Alto? What if we moved here for nothing?”

“You’ve got what it takes, Johnny. You’ll do great here. Let’s go. I’ve got something else to show you.” I led him out the front entrance of the school, and pointed across the street to a white colonial mansion on the corner of Bob Dylan Drive and 21st Street. It was twice the size of any house we’d seen in town. The front lawn was an expansive half-acre of drifted snow.

“That’s Uncle Dom’s house,” I said.

“Nice.”

“It’s one of the most impressive homes in town. When I was a schoolboy, doctors were the wealthiest people, and Dr. Dominic Scipioni was the top surgeon in Hibbing.”

We crossed the street together. Dom’s front walk was covered by a foot of crusted snow, unbroken by a single footprint. Johnny tip-toed up the path, his Nike Air Jordans sinking in and filling with snow on every step. “Dom isn’t doing a great job of keeping the snow off his walk,” he said.

“He doesn’t live here anymore, that’s why we got the place. Dom has homes in Arizona and Montana. He keeps this family house for the nostalgia of the old homestead.”

“What’s the deal with this Uncle Dom, anyway?” Johnny said. “Is he your uncle, or is he my uncle?”

“He’s nobody’s uncle. Dom’s not related to any of us, but he’s always treated me like family. Dr. Dom was my role model and mentor ever since I was a teenager.”

I bent over and peeled back the corner of the welcome mat. A shiny steel key lay underneath. “This is a sweet deal for us. We get one of the best houses in town, two blocks from the hospital and across the street from the high school, no questions asked. It’ll be our Minnesota man-cave.”

Johnny followed me into the house. The interior was meat-locker cold. We could see the water vapor of our breath. A lifelong ectomorph, I loathed hypothermia. I turned the thermostat up to 72 degrees and switched on the lights in the living room. “I recommend you proceed at once to the den in the basement. Dom has three big screen televisions, side by side by side. You can watch the NBA, the NHL, and the PGA Tour at the same time, by the mere effort of swiveling your neck a few degrees. And you want to know the best thing about Dom’s house?”

“What’s that?”

“There’s no one here to yell at you.”

“I’m with you there, Dad.” Johnny descended the stairs into the basement.

I toured the living room. Dom’s house lacked the towering ceilings of our glassed-in California home. The space felt claustrophobic with its tiny square windows, dark paneled walls, and smoke-stained brown-bricked fireplace. I knew every knot-hole in this room from my previous lifetime here, when Dom’s family was my family. Once upon a time, this room represented the height of luxury to me.

I walked over to the framed black-and-white photograph I knew would be standing on the fireplace mantle. The photo portrayed a young man and a young woman dressed in formal attire. The dark-haired girl wore a square-necked white dress, and held a broad bouquet of flowers. Her lips were closed, and she had a solemn, far-away look in her eyes. The man wore a tuxedo and a goofy smile that was incongruous with the woman’s apparent gloom.

A flood of grief overcame me. I’d traveled all day, and this picture was the tortured endpoint to my journey. It was Dom’s house, and Dom could decorate the place as he pleased. Some people preferred to put their memories on their fireplace mantles. Some memories were better left hidden.

The boy in the picture was Nico Antone. And the girl? She was from another lifetime. I’d shoveled dirt over this unsmiling girl years ago. She was dead, and I needed her to stay dead.

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

HOW COMMON ARE CARDIAC ARRESTS DURING SURGERY AND ANESTHESIA?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

 

How common are cardiac arrests during surgery? Uncommon, but the incidence is not zero and the outcome is usually dire.

ventricular fibrillation

In 2004 the Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists reported 2,443 cardiac arrests (6.34 per 10,000 anesthetics) and 2,638 deaths (6.85 per 10,000 anesthetics) among 3,855,384 anesthetics. The majority of deaths were due to preoperative health complications (64.7%) and surgical problems (23.9%). The main preoperative problem leading to death was hemorrhagic shock, and the main surgical problem leading to death was excessive surgical bleeding. The incidence of cardiac arrest totally attributable to anesthesia mismanagement was low (0.47 per 10,000 anesthetics), and anesthesia mismanagement was responsible for only 1.5% of deaths. (1)

The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement database from 2005 to 2007 documented the incidence of intraoperative cardiac arrest in non-cardiac surgery as 7.22 per 10,000 cases. Intraoperative blood loss, represented by the amount of blood transfused, was the most important risk factor. Patients receiving over 10 units of blood had greater than 10 times the risk of those receiving 1-3 units of blood. Two other significant risk factors were emergency surgery and the patient’s preoperative health as assessed by the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status ranking. Of the 262 patients with intraoperative cardiac arrests, 44% died within 24 hours and 62% died within 30 days. (2)

From 2010 to 2013 the National Anesthesia Clinical Outcomes Registry reported the risk of intraoperative cardiac arrest as 5.6 per 10,000 cases. Fifty-eight percent of these patients died. The incidence of cardiac arrest increased with age and ASA physical status ranking, with the majority occurring in patients with an ASA physical status of 3-5. (3)

Physicians from a Thai teaching hospital reviewed 44,339 emergency surgery patients from 2003 to 2011, and found the incidence of perioperative cardiac arrest in emergency surgery was 163 per 10,000 cases. Risk factors were age 2 years or younger, an ASA physical status of 3-4, risky anatomic sites of surgery (upper abdomen, intracranial, intrathoracic, cardiac, or major vascular), cardiac or respiratory comorbidities, and shock prior to anesthesia. (4)

A Brazilian study documented a higher incidence of perioperative cardiac arrest in children than in adults. From 1996 to 2004, 15,253 anesthetics were performed in children. There were 35 cardiac arrests (22.9 per 10,000) and 15 deaths (9.8 per 10,000). Risk factors for cardiac arrest were children under one year of age, emergency surgery, ASA physical status 3-5, and general anesthesia. There were 11 cardiac arrests related to anesthesia care. Seventy-one per cent of these were caused by airway management/respiratory events, and 28% were caused by medication-related events. There were zero deaths attributed to anesthesia. (5).

What does all this mean?

If you’re an anesthesia provider, know that that the risk of cardiac arrest during surgery and anesthesia is low. The average reported incidence is in the ballpark of 6 to 7 per 10,000 cases, higher in children (22.9 per 10,000), and highest in emergency surgeries (163 per 10,000).

A busy anesthesiologist doing his or her own cases performs 1000 anesthetics per year. A predicted experience would be one cardiac arrest every 6-7 years, or 4-5 cardiac arrests in a 30-year career. A physician anesthesiologist supervising four CRNAs in four operating rooms could do four times as many cases per year, so a predicted incidence would be 16-20 cardiac arrests in a 30-year career.
Anesthesiologists should be prepared to promptly manage cardiac arrests in the patients at highest risk, which include: those with extensive bleeding and transfusion requirements; patients in shock; emergency surgeries; particularly emergency surgeries involving the upper abdomen, craniotomies, cardiac, intrathoracic, and major vascular vessels; patients with preoperative physical status limitations (ASA physical status 3-5); and children under one year of age.

In 30+ years of administering approximately 25,000 anesthetics I’ve seen cardiac arrests in three cases, for a personal anecdotal incidence of 1.2 per 10,000. All were in the high-risk categories above. One patient was in hemorrhagic shock prior to surgery because of an acute bleed from a ruptured aortic aneurysm, one patient was undergoing aortic artery bypass surgery, and one patient was a sick end-stage renal disease dialysis patient undergoing vascular surgery.

If you’re a patient, realize that your risk of having a cardiac arrest under anesthesia is low. If you have any of the risk factors described above, your risks are higher. Trust that the surgeon and physician anesthesiologist who take care of you will be well prepared, aware of this data, and will take excellent care of you while you are asleep.

In the future, physician anesthesiologists will have an abundance of “Big Data” on clinical issues such as this one. The ASA and its affiliate, the Anesthesia Quality Institute (AQI), are compiling the National Anesthesia Clinical Outcomes Registry (NACOR), which has been designated as a Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS).

Can we lower the incidence of perioperative cardiac arrest? Perhaps, as we gain more understanding of risk factors. But as the Baby Boomer population in the United States ages, there will be more old patients, more patients with multiple medical problems, and more emergency surgeries on older, sicker patients.
Anesthesiologists will continue to be challenged.

References:
1. Irita K, et al. Annual mortality and morbidity in operating rooms during 2002 and summary of morbidity and mortality between 1999 and 2002 in Japan: a brief review. Masui. 2004 Mar;53(3):320-335.

2. Goswami S, Brady JE, Jordan DA, Li G. Intraoperative cardiac arrests in adults undergoing noncardiac surgery: incidence, risk factors, and survival outcome. Anesthesiology. 2012 Nov;117(5):1018-26.

3. Nunnally ME, O’Connor MF, Kordylewski H, Westlake B, Dutton RP. The incidence and risk factors for perioperative cardiac arrest observed in the national anesthesia clinical outcomes registry. Anesth Analg. 2015 Feb;120(2):364-70.

4. Siriphuwanun V, et al. Incidence of and factors associated with perioperative cardiac arrest within 24 hours of anesthesia for emergency surgery. Risk Manag Healthc Policy. 2014 Sep 4;7:155-62. doi: 10.2147/RMHP.S67935. eCollection 2014.

5. Gobbo Braz L, et al. Perioperative cardiac arrest and its mortality in children. A 9-year survey in a Brazilian tertiary teaching hospital. Paediatr Anaesth. 2006 Aug;16(8):860-6.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

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SERIALIZATION OF THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN … CHAPTER THREE

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

3) QUEEN ALEXANDRA APPROXIMATELY

I drove my black BMW M6 convertible up the semicircular driveway to our Palo Alto home after work, and parked behind my wife’s silver Aston Martin One-77. Together, the value of the two cars approximated the gross national products of some third world nations. Our home was a 7,000-square-foot Tuscan villa built on a hilltop west of the Stanford University campus. The Antone estate encompassed three acres of tranquility, and towered above an urban area of seven million Californians, most of whom were mired in less-than-tranquil rush hour traffic at that very moment.

Our living room featured thirty-foot-high ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking San Francisco Bay. The décor included opulent white Baker couches no one ever sat on and a Steinway grand piano no one ever played. I sped through the formal room at flank speed. I couldn’t remember ever spending more than five minutes hanging out in this museum piece of showroom design.

I carried a large bag of Chinese take-out food from Chef Chu’s, and set it down on the stainless steel countertop of our spotless, never-used kitchen. I made a beeline for the refrigerator, popped the top off a Corona, and chugged half the bottle. I was still vibrating from my day in the operating room. I looked out the French doors toward the back patio.

Alexandra was lying on a lounge chair and sipping a tall drink through a straw. A broad-brimmed Panama hat graced her swirling mane of black hair. She wore a white one-piece swimming suit. It was an unseasonably warm day for January, and my wife never missed an opportunity to bronze her lanky limbs.

I walked up behind Alexandra, wrapped my arms around her neck, and kissed her left cheek. She held a cell phone against her right ear, and she pushed me away while she continued her conversation. I frowned and said nothing. Was it so hard for Alexandra to pretend she loved me? I sank into a second chaise lounge beside her, closed my eyes and listened.

“That property is overpriced at $6.5 million,” she said. “I know we can get it for 6.2. Put in the bid tonight and tell the seller they need to decide by tomorrow morning or the deal’s off. Got it? Call me back when they cave. Ciao.”

Alexandra set her phone down and lit a Marlboro Light 100. She inhaled with a violent effort, exhaled the smoke through her nostrils, dragon-like, and turned toward me. She wore broad Ray-Ban sunglasses. I couldn’t tell if she was looking at me or if she was looking out over San Francisco Bay, a vista Alexandra may well have considered far more interesting.

“How are you?” she said.

“I had a busy day. Today I was in the neuro room…”

Her phone rang again, and she waved me off while she took the call. My heart sank anew. She listened for an extended time and then she said, “I’ll be there at 5. No problem. Thanks.” She hung up and thrust her fist into the air. “Got a whale on the line,” she said. “There’s a couple from Taiwan who want to see the Jorgensen house tonight. Their agent drove them by the property this morning. They are very, very interested, and very, very wealthy. It’s an all-cash deal. A blank check.” She took a second long drag on her cigarette, and leaned toward me. At this angle, I could see my own reflection dwarfed in the lenses of her sunglasses. “This is big, Nico.”

“How much is the Jorgensen house listed for?”

“Just under 8 mill. That’s a quarter of a million dollar commission for yours truly.”

Her monomaniacal pursuit of money baffled me. Alexandra Regina Antone was one of America’s top real estate agents. Because of her explosive earning power, we lived in one of the nation’s most expensive residential neighborhoods, a zip code where Silicon Valley’s multimillionaire CEO’s and venture capitalists lorded in their castles. The residential properties Alexandra bought and sold for her clients were in the $3 million to $10 million range, and she earned a 3% commission on each sale. She sold one or two houses each month, and her income for the past year topped $9 million.

Alexandra’s salary dwarfed mine. None of my medical peers lived in this kind of luxury. To Alexandra, another $240,000 commission was headline news. It wasn’t about the cash—this was about the glory of Alexandra and her talent. It was about the Queen of Palo Alto rising higher and higher on the pedestal she’d erected for herself.

“So, you were telling me about your day,” Alexandra said, as she stretched her arms toward the sky and stifled a yawn.

“I did a craniotomy with Judith Chang. One case. It took all day.”

She took a final drag on her Marlboro, shivered in disgust, and said, “Judith Chang is such a stiff. Always bragging about her robotic daughters. I don’t know how you can do that job, locked in a windowless room with her hour after hour.” Alexandra had zero interest in listening to medical stories. She changed the topic at once. “Did you hear about Johnny’s report card?”

“I did. He’s pretty upset. Johnny wishes his grades were better. I wish his grades were better. He said you yelled at him.”

“Johnny’s a slacker. God knows I tried to light a fire under him years ago, but you taught him how to watch ESPN instead of pushing academics.”

“He said you called him a lazy shit.”

“I did. He is a lazy shit.”

“He’s your son, for God’s sakes. Johnny loves you and looks up to you. How do you think he feels when his mother says that?”

“I don’t give a fuck how he feels. Johnny needs to hear it, and he needs to change. Clue in! You don’t seem to get it, either. You think he’s fine just the way he is. Well he isn’t, Nico. Johnny’s a spoiled brat, living in luxury on top of this hill. He has no incentive to work hard. He thinks he can live off my money forever.”

Alexandra was dogmatic about the pathway to success. She was an unabashed academic snob—a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School—and she’d have tattooed her Ivy League diplomas across her cleavage if she hadn’t been too vain to disfigure her silicone orbs. I wasn’t going to fight with her—I never won.

I shifted gears. “Dr. Chang had an interesting take on Johnny’s grades. She said Johnny could get into any college he wanted to if we lived in South Dakota.” I explained how Dr. Chang’s nephew from Sioux Falls was accepted to Princeton.

Alexandra removed her hat, shook out her hair, and took off her sunglasses to reveal flashing brown eyes. “For a change, Judith Chang is right. Johnny’s chances for success are slim on his current path. He has no chance at the Ivy League coming out of Palo Alto with his B average.” She chewed on the earpiece of her Ray-Bans as she contemplated. “Why don’t we send him to Minnesota to live with Dominic?”

“You’re kidding,” I said. My Uncle Dominic had a home near the Canadian border, in Hibbing, Minnesota, where I graduated from high school. Hibbing was a great place if you wanted to hunt partridge or ice fish for walleye pike, but the tiny village was a subarctic outpost light-years removed from the opulence Johnny grew up with in California.

“I’m not kidding. Johnny needs a gimmick for college admissions, and he has none. Hibbing could be his ticket.”

“He can’t just move up there with Dominic. Johnny’s 17 years old. And Dominic moved to Arizona. His house is empty.”

“Then take a year off. Go up there with him. Get your ass out of that windowless tomb of an operating room and take your son back to your childhood home.”
I frowned. “What about you?”

“Are you kidding? I’m not going anywhere. My friends are here, my job is here. But you go right ahead, Nico.”

Now it was my turn to stare off at the blue expanse of San Francisco Bay. Move back to the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota, to the land of rusted-out Fords and beer-swilling Vikings fans? What had my marriage come to? Before Johnny was born, Alexandra and I used to sit in these same chairs and drink margaritas together. Naked dips in this same pool led to nights of laughter and hot sex. Our current sex life had declined to hall sex, when I murmured “fuck you” under my breath after Alexandra walked past me in the hallway on her way to the second bedroom where she slept alone.

Alexandra was unrelenting. “Don’t give Johnny an option. Tell him you’re taking him to Minnesota to turn his life around, get some A’s, and graduate number one in his class from Hibbing High School. Call Dominic tonight and make the arrangements. It’ll be the best decision you’ve ever made. Trust me.”

Trust me. Alexandra could sell bikinis to Eskimos. “You’re OK with your husband and son moving 2,000 miles away?” I said.

She wrapped her arms around herself in an absurd parody of self-love and said, “Of course I’ll miss you.” Then she laid back onto the chaise lounge, the top third of her breasts busting out of her swimsuit top. She knit her hands behind her head, pushed her cleavage out into the January sunshine, and grinned in silence.

I watched the spectacle of her arching self-absorption and winced. Move 2,000 miles away? I was 2,000 miles away from this woman already.

“Hey guys,” came a voice from behind us. Johnny was home from school. He walked onto the patio and stood between us. My mood improved at once. Our son was tall and muscular with perfect skin, dark wavy hair, and striking blue eyes. He wore his usual uniform of gym shorts and an oversized T-shirt. My love for Johnny was unlike any emotion I’d ever felt. Romantic love for a woman was a wonderful abyss—the subject matter of a million songs, books, movies, and television shows. I’d watched romantic love drift off into the ozone as years passed, but with my son I was in love forever. If Alexandra and I ever divorced, I’d carry on. If my son ever shut me out, I’d need electroshock therapy.

Johnny wasn’t smiling. His shoulders drooped, his chin scraped his chest, and his gaze was locked onto the slate tiles under his well-worn Nike athletic shoes.

“How’s the Boy with the B’s doing?” Alexandra said.

Johnny regarded her through hooded eyes—James Dean with a cause. His upper lip curled skyward in a look of contempt. He was already smoldering from a bad day, and she was throwing kerosene on his fire.

She forged on, hawking optimism now. “Dad and I have a great plan for you that should make your report card problem of no consequence.”

“Great plan?” Contempt turned to suspicion.

“Johnny, are you happy that your grades rank you in the middle of the pack at your school?” she said.

“You know I’m not,” he sneered. I didn’t have a 42-inch monitor displaying Johnny’s vital signs, but I knew my son’s blood pressure was escalating.

“Would you like to be accepted into a top college?”

“Duh. Of course, Mom.”

“What if we told you there was a way for you to graduate at the top of your class and go on to one of America’s best colleges?”

“I’d say you were smoking too much weed.”

“No weed.”

“How am I going to jump to the head of my class at Palo Alto Hills High?”

“Not Palo Alto Hills High School, Johnny. Hibbing High School.”

Johnny looked from me to his mother and back again. “You two are messed up. Hibbing? Where the hell is that?”

“Hibbing is in Northern Minnesota. It’s where your dad grew up. It could be worse. We’re not sending you off to some military school in the badlands of Utah where you don’t know anyone. Your dad will move to Minnesota with you.”

“That’s ridiculous… Dad?” he said, panic in his voice.

I opened my mouth, but Alexandra didn’t give me a chance to weigh in. “There are consequences for your lack of effort in school, Johnny,” she said. “We want you to get out of Palo Alto and compete for grades with the sons and daughters of some iron ore miners. Right, Nico?” She turned to me for affirmation.

Johnny’s jaw sagged. “Dad?” he said again.

“I’m overdue for my sabbatical at the University,” I said. “My Uncle Dominic has a house in Hibbing. With your brains, your test scores, and a lot of hard work, you could be a top student up there. Instead of being a middle-of-the-pack Palo Alto student, you could be….” At this point I decided to gamble and appeal to my son’s ego and vanity, “You could be the valedictorian.”

“Can the best students from a school like that get into a top college?”

“They can. When I was a senior at Hibbing High, two kids were accepted to Harvard. It’s got to be the best high school in the northern half of Minnesota.”

“Whoa. Harvard?”

“Yes, Harvard.”

Johnny looked over at his mother. She smirked, as if she’d single-handedly masterminded a strategic maneuver worthy of Machiavelli.

“I’ll have to think about this,” Johnny said.

“I’ve got to shower and get ready for my meeting,” Alexandra said. “Nico, you guys are on your own for dinner. Johnny, I’m sure you’ll love Minnesota.” She rolled off her lounge chair as Johnny covered his eyes and pressed his thumbs into his temples.

She walked away, and I admired the swagger of her slender hips and the bounce of her long tresses. I never got tired of looking at Alexandra, but it wasn’t much fun living with a woman whose best friend was her mirror.

I turned to Johnny. “Want some Chinese food?” I said.

“I’ll eat it in my room, Dad. I have a ton of homework. I’m really pissed off about everything and I don’t want to talk anymore. First I get the crappy report card, and now you guys want to ship me off to the Yukon. All you guys care about is grades. You don’t give two shits about whether I’m happy or not.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is true. Just leave me alone. I’m going to my room. This B-student has a date with Hamlet.” Johnny walked away, and I let him go. My B-student son needed more dates with the Danish prince.

I dished out a plate of Szechwan prawns and General’s Tso’s chicken, and popped the top off a second Corona. The Golden State Warriors were playing the Miami Heat at 6 p.m. A second Corona, some Schezwan prawns, and the basketball game sounded like a decent evening.

After halftime, Johnny came shuffling down the hallway. He stretched out on the couch opposite me, and opened his laptop. He was humming to himself, and his fingers were flying.

I was happy to see he’d cheered up. “Feeling better?” I said.

“Yep. The Chinese food hit the spot.”

I waited for more conversation, but none was forthcoming. The Warriors connected on an alley-oop and an outrageous dunk. Johnny didn’t look up.

“How’s Amanda?” I said, trying to stoke up a dialogue. Amanda Feld was Johnny’s girlfriend, a petite cross-country runner who gazed at Johnny like he was a Greek god. She hadn’t been over for a couple of weeks, and Johnny hadn’t brought up her name for longer than that.

“Amanda’s history,” Johnny said.

“History?”

“I broke up with her a month ago, Dad.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing happened. It didn’t work out.”

“She was cute.”

“Yep.”

I waited for more of an explanation, but none came. Amanda’s fate paralleled all the other breakups of the past year, when Johnny ended relationships with Samantha the cheerleader, Emily the debate star, and Jenna the girl across the street. Johnny seemed to attract girls by repelling them. The less interest he showed, the more the women orbited him. I was envious.

Johnny said, “The report card and class rank bullshit really wore me down today. Why should my whole future revolve around some alphabet letters on a page?”

“It doesn’t. Your life is much more than your grades.”

“Yeah, like what?”

I pointed my two forefingers at my son just like I had a thousand times in his life, and said, “You’re a great kid. Don’t ever forget it.”

“Why do you always have to say that to me, Dad?”

“Because it’s true. I want you to imprint it in your brain and never doubt it.”

“Even if I can’t get an A in one class?”

“Even if you can’t get one A.”

“I want to get A’s. All A’s. But transferring to Minnesota?” Johnny tapped the screen of his laptop and said, “I’m looking at the Weather Channel website. It’s minus five degrees and snowing in Hibbing right now.”

“Yep. That’s why I left. In the winter the sun sets at 3:30 in the afternoon.”

“That’s insane.”

“It ain’t California.”

He shook his head. “I’m going to sleep.”

“Good night, son. I love you.”

“Love you, too,” Johnny said, and then he headed off toward his room.

I welcomed the tranquility from the two beers. My eyelids grew heavy, and I faded toward unconsciousness. My cell phone rang and woke me. I didn’t recognize the number. I answered the call, and a male voice said, “Alexandra?”

“No, this is her husband’s number. Who’s calling?”

There was a click as the line went dead. The heaviness in my eyelids was gone. I found myself mistrusting my wife.

Again.

I woke in the middle of the night. I’d dozed off in my chair in front of the flickering television. A Seinfeld rerun was playing. I turned off the TV, tried my best to stay asleep, and stumbled down the hallway toward my bedroom. The door to Alexandra’s bedroom was open, and her bed was untouched. I looked at my watch. It was 2:07 a.m.

A surge of annoyance ran through me. Where the devil was she at 2 o’clock in the morning on a Thursday night? My hopes for a quick return to slumber were dashed. I was full of adrenaline, and I wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon. I walked into her room and laid down on her bed. The familiar smell of her hair from the pillows jolted me. It had been a long time since we’d touched the same sheets together.

I heard a car door slam outside. A minute later, Alexandra stood in the bedroom doorway. She carried her high heel shoes in one hand and wore a black spaghetti strap cocktail dress. Those spectacular legs were glistening from mid-thigh on down.

She was startled to see me. “What are you doing in my room?” she said.

“Waiting up. Where were you?” My voice quivered with resentment.

“Oh, Jesus, Nico. I’m not a sixteen-year-old girl, and you’re not my dad. I went out with the girls and had a couple of drinks and some laughs. It was fun. You should try it sometime.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Believe whatever you want. Can you get out of my room now so I can go to sleep?”

I turned on the overhead lights, and examined the illuminated spectacle of Alexandra Antone. Her arms were crossed, and she was smirking down at me. A streak of red lipstick stretched from her upper lip across her right cheek. Was she was playing kissy-face with the girls?

I lost it. “Are you playing me?” I said.

“What are you talking about?”

“Are you playing me for a fool? Who were you with?”

She turned her back on me and walked into her closet. “You are such a buzzkill,” she called out. “You always hate it when I have fun. I have a life. I’m sorry you’re jealous.”

I ran to her like a wild bull. I grabbed her by the arm and swung her around to face me.

“Are you having an affair?” I screamed.

Dull eyes stared back at me. Alexandra blinked twice, shook her head in disgust, and said, “No, I’m not. And get your hands off of me, Nico. You’re still the same small-town hick you’ve always been.”

Her defiance infuriated me further. “I’m sick of you, and I’m sick of our bogus marriage.”

She laughed at me and said, “You need to find somebody else. Someone who likes listening to your boring medical stories. Someone who wants to cook meat and potatoes for you. Someone who enjoys staying home and watching TV with you.”

“I’m married to you. I’m not finding anybody else while I’m your husband.”

“Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?”

I saw flames. I picked up her six-foot-tall cast iron coat rack and rammed the shaft through the closet wall. The metal hung there, cleaving the room between us.

“Are you crazy?” Her shriek was ear-splitting.

“At least I’m not a whore.” With those words, I’d crossed the line. As of that moment, I knew I could no longer live with the woman. “If you want to stay out half the night like a tramp, don’t bother to come home at all.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” she screeched. “You’re the one who needs to move out. I paid for this damn house.”

The hardwood floor creaked behind me, and a voice bellowed, “Shut the fuck up! Both of you!” It was Johnny, standing in the doorway in his undershorts. My world stopped. Alex and I stared at our son, and no words were offered.

Alexandra spoke at last. She said, “Whatever. Can you two get out of my bedroom now?”
Johnny shook his head and disappeared into the darkness of his own room. I was so embarrassed and furious I found it hard to breathe. The two most important relationships in my life were imploding before my eyes. I left Alexandra’s room, and she shut her door behind me. I leaned against the closed door of Johnny’s bedroom and said, “I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“Then stop talking about it,” he said. I waited there for five minutes. He made no further sound. I walked away, back to my isolation in the master bedroom.
I lay in the dark with a pillow over my eyes and replayed what had just gone down. My life was ridiculous. My separate-evening, separate-bedroom, give-your-husband-shit-whenever-possible marriage was ridiculous. How could Johnny have a healthy adolescence under these circumstances?

I had no answers. I was angry, depressed, and reeling. I reached into the drawer of my bedside table, pulled out my bottle of Ambien, popped two, and chased them with a swallow of water from last night’s glass. I was an expert at anesthesia, even when I was the patient.

The next day I dragged myself through five routine surgeries although I was so angry it took all my will to concentrate on my craft. When I returned to my house that evening, Johnny was stretched out in my lounge chair. He was watching TV and typing into his laptop. He’d been asleep when I left for work that morning, so I hadn’t seen him since the screaming session in the hallway. Alexandra was nowhere to be seen.

“Hey, Dad,” Johnny said without looking up.

“Hello, son. Did you get some sleep after that whole episode last night?”

“I did. Mom gave me a ton of crap this morning for swearing at her and being disrespectful.” His face soured. If there was more to say, he wasn’t going there. He closed the laptop and said, “Other than that, it was a good day. I’ve been researching a lot of stuff about Hibbing on the Internet.”

He had my attention.

“That was excellent Chinese food last night, wouldn’t you agree?” he said.

“It was.”

“It’ll be our last decent Chinese food for awhile, Dad. I don’t think there’ll be any outstanding Chinese restaurants up there in Hibbing. I want to do it.”

“Do it?”

“I want to get away from Palo Alto Hills High, away from Amanda Feld, and away from Mom.
I want to go to Minnesota. Will you take me?” He held out his hand toward me. I stared at it and contemplated the implications of the gesture. Johnny was an impulsive kid, capable of making radical and irrational decisions in a heartbeat, but he’d never made a decision that impacted his life to this degree.

“You mean it?”

“I do. Can you walk away from your anesthesia job?”

“Well…” My thoughts were jumbled as I pondered the coin spinning through the air. Heads, I honored my love for my son and joined him in this adventure. Tails, I maintained my love for the warmth of California and my stable university job.

The tipping point was Alexandra. She was a toxic presence in my life. More than a marital separation, I needed an exorcism. It wasn’t a question of love. I didn’t even like her.
The coin landed on heads. I clasped Johnny’s outstretched hand and said, “Let’s do this, son. Let’s move.”

“Can’t wait, Daddy-O,” Johnny said.

“I’ll call Uncle Dominic in the morning and set things up.”

Johnny smiled and repeated again, “Can’t wait.”

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

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THE ACHILLES’ HEEL OF ANESTHESIOLOGY… WHAT IS THE GREATEST THREAT TO OUR SPECIALTY?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Anesthesiology is a wonderful profession, as I have described in many previous posts on theanesthesiaconsultant.com. But nothing is perfect, and anesthesia has one threat which could in time undermine the entire specialty. What is this threat? What is anesthesiology’s Achilles’ heel?

No, it’s not the nurse anesthetists, nor the stress of covering surgeries in the middle of the night, nor the stress of saving patients who are trying to die in front of our eyes during acute care emergencies.

Our Achilles’ heel is that we don’t have our own patients.

Primary care doctors have a bevy of patients who return to see them at regular intervals. Specialists and surgeons have a clinic full of patients who are referred to them from primary care physicians. Health care systems are acquiring primary care providers and top specialists as rapidly as they can, to assemble a sizable network of covered lives. This network of patients will serve to keep their clinics and hospitals full and profitable.

In the operating rooms, the patients are brought in by the surgeons. Anesthesia providers, be they physician anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists, are tasked with providing safe and quality anesthesia care. Anesthesia providers are at best consultants, and at worst, “worker bees” called upon to provide a service.

Which of the following are commodities?

  1. Crude Oil
  2. Copper
  3. Soy beans
  4. Anesthesia services
  5. All of the above

Consider the answer to be E.

To hospital administrators and CEOs, anesthesia “worker bees” can be considered an expense or a commodity, somewhat similar to registered nurses, orderlies, surgical technicians, or even janitors. We can be regarded as a commodity because, like the nurses, technicians, and janitors, patient referrals do not originate with us. To a hospital CEO, each surgeon is an asset who brings surgical patients to surgery, whereas each anesthesia provider may be thought of as a worker necessary to do surgery.

Note that anesthesiologists who specialize in pain medicine in a clinic setting can be exceptions to this discussion. Pain specialists can generate their own patients from their clinics on which to do pain-relieving procedures. In their operating room role they more resemble the niche of a surgeon than that of an anesthetist.

In the current medical economy, when a hospital CEO, a health care system, or a surgery center is looking for anesthesia coverage, a priority is to acquire quality service of these anesthesia “worker bees” at the lowest possible cost. The hospital CEO, health care system, or surgery center may then grant an exclusive contract to the cheapest provider. This exclusive contract may go to a national anesthesia company, rather than the anesthesiologists currently on staff, or this exclusive contract may go to a newly hired anesthesia chairman, empowered to hire a new staff of anesthesiologists or nurse anesthetists at a budget rate.

You may be an outstanding anesthesiologist, but you are replaceable. Your anesthesia group may be an outstanding group, but your whole group is replaceable.

There are problems even if your group has an exclusive contract. Per the California Society of Anesthesiologists’ Dr. Keith Chamberlain, negative aspects of an anesthesia exclusive contract include:

  • “You can lose an exclusive contract. Anesthesia job security is based on quality, service, and (more recently) cost. Today, 80 per cent of anesthesia groups receive some subsidy from hospitals, which are strongly motivated to reduce it. Competitors often approach hospitals with business plans that eliminate the subsidy, and the decision for the hospital often comes down to cost. If your hospital privileges are tied to an exclusive contract, your ability to continue to practice will depend on your relationship with the new contract holder.
  • The contract holder will eventually experience pressure from the hospital to contract with its payers. There may be a phrase in the contract about “cooperation” with payers. Frequently this means that the contract holder must agree to a contract rate—good or bad.
  • If case volume or the number of anesthetizing locations increases, the contract may insist on the availability of additional providers, regardless of OR inefficiency or payer mix.
  • Many standard contracts allow either party to terminate without cause on 90 days following the first anniversary.”

(http://members.csahq.org/blog/2014/07/21/dont-count-exclusive-contract)

An Internet search documents specific examples of anesthesiology groups losing their jobs around the United States:

  • From Oregon, in 2010: “Turmoil at Good Samaritan: Up to 23 anesthesiologists will lose their jobs in September when Legacy Good Samaritan ends its contract with the Oregon Anesthesiology Group. The hospital plans to replace the doctors with nurse anesthetists. Unhappy physicians and their supporters have raised concerns about whether the switch puts cost savings ahead of patient safety (nurses make less than docs). Legacy spokesman Brian Terrett says the hospital will gain more control but not benefit financially from the transition because anesthesia costs are billed to patients. He added that the nurse anesthetists will be fully credentialed and supervised by doctors.” Willamette Week: July 7, 2010(https://www.oregon-crna.org/site/content/23-anesthesiologists-will-lose-their-jobs-september)
  • From the state of Virginia, in 2015: “A conflict between Riverside Regional Medical Center and its former anesthesia company has escalated to the point that Riverside is unable to perform open-heart surgery until April 23. Riverside did not renew its contract with Virginia Anesthesia and Perioperative Care Specialists and last week brought a new anesthesia company on board…. What happened? Riverside Regional Medical Center ended a long-standing relationship with a local anesthesiology group, Virginia Anesthesia and Perioperative Care Specialists, and contracted with a national management company, Soma Health Partners, effective April 7. Texas-based Soma is bringing in new anesthesiologists because, contractually, the local company’s employees cannot join the new company for two years.”( http://www.dailypress.com/news/dp-local_riverside_0415apr15,0,5448759.story?track=rss)
  • From California, in 2011: In her blog, A Penned Point, Dr. Karen Sibert writes “At Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, hospital administrators put out the anesthesia contract for competitive bidding in 2011, and the all-MD anesthesia group that had held the contract for years lost out to Somnia.  A new anesthesiology chief came on board, and a care team model with nurse anesthetists took over.” (http://apennedpoint.com)

What can anesthesiologists do to respond to this Achilles’ heel threat and create better job security? To reduce the urge for a hospital CEO to displace their current anesthesia providers, you need to:

  1. Provide the highest quality of medical care to your hospital and surgery centers.
  2. Provide high service to your hospital and surgery centers.
  3. Maintain high quality professional relationships with surgeons, other physician specialties, and administrators, so there is little incentive to demand a change.
  4. Become involved in hospital medical committees and politics, both for self-preservation and because these are roles typically filled by physicians, not nurse anesthetists.
  5. Avoid greed in negotiations over contracted rates and hospital stipends. By all means acquire the best deal you can, but realize that unreasonable expectations for monetary reimbursement may give the CEO an incentive to seek bids from a national anesthesia company or an alternative anesthesia group.
  6. Consider moving toward the new Perioperative Surgical Home model, as advocated by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The PSH is a means for anesthesiologists to become valuable preoperative and postoperative necessities for their health care system, rather than just operating room anesthesia providers (which are easier to replace).

Hospital administrators and CEOs are trained to manage the bottom line. They will consider all reasonable means to reduce expenses. Be aware that your anesthesia group can be seen as a replaceable commodity. Consider points 1 – 6 above, and try not to give your hospital administrator a reason to look elsewhere for anesthesia coverage.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

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

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ON BECOMING AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST… WHAT PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS ARE ESSENTIAL TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL ANESTHESIOLOGIST?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

What are the personal characteristics of a successful anesthesiologist? You’ve found The Anesthesia Consultant website, so you have some interest in anesthesia. Perhaps you’ve heard that anesthesiologists earn a comfortable living.

Per wikiprofessionals.org: “According to figures from the U.S. Department of Labor, the lowest 10% of anesthesiologists earn under $135,110 per year, whereas the top 10% earn up to $408,000 per year. The median annual earnings, defined as that figure where half the experienced anesthesiologists earn less than that amount and half earn more, is $292,000. Anesthesiologists’ salaries are among the highest of all U.S. professions.”

Perhaps you’re wondering if anesthesiology is a potential vocation for you, your child, your cousin, or your niece. The truth is: a career in anesthesia involves unique demands that most people would not seek, tolerate, or ever grow accustomed to.

Nonetheless, I believe no medical specialty is more fascinating than anesthesiology. Based on thirty years as an anesthesiologist, here’s my checklist of ten qualities necessary to succeed in this profession.

You must have:

  1. Calmness under intense pressure. I’ve experience countless emergency moments where patients dropped their heart rate or blood pressure dangerously low, increased their heart rate or blood pressure dangerously high, hemorrhaged from an artery, lost their airway, or in some other unexpected way sustained a life-threatening event. An anesthesiologist must remain focused and decisive at these moments. An anesthesiologist must choose the correct diagnostic and therapeutic moves to save the patient’s life. An operating room emergency is not a time for screaming, temper tantrums, or freezing. An operating room emergency is a time for calm, assertive action.
  2. Vigilance during long periods of quasi-boredom. In between those emergency occurrences, an anesthesiologist must remain attentive without becoming bored or distracted. The motto of the American Society of Anesthesiologists is one word: Vigilance. During surgery, much of our job is to observe. One day I brought my 15-year-old son into the operating room with me to observe surgery, hoping he would respect the complex nature of my job. Instead his impression afterward was, “Dad, most of the time you don’t really do much of anything. You watch monitor screens, talk to the surgeon and the nurses, and listen to music.” One of my partners overheard this analysis and remarked, “If you see an anesthesiologist working hard, then you’ve really got a problem!”
  3. Superior skills with your hands. There are no tests during college pre-med classes or medical school clerkships to quantify an individual’s fine motor skills. Many doctors with superior manual dexterity migrate toward operative specialties like surgery or anesthesia. But not all anesthesiologists are equal. Some resident anesthesia doctors are less skillful than others at various anesthesia procedures such as placing breathing tubes into windpipes, inserting catheters into veins and arteries, injecting nerve blocks near peripheral nerves, or injecting spinals and epidurals into the lumbar spine. Residents have dropped out of our specialty altogether because they were not confident with the required procedural skills.
  4. The patience and motivation to persist through 25-27 years of training. In the song Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan wrote, “Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.” In anesthesiology, twenty years of schooling earns you both the dayshift and the night shift. Your education will consist of thirteen years through high school, four years of college, four years of medical school, one year of internship, three years of anesthesia residency, and probably an extra one or two years of fellowship specialization. This cascade of years stretches your education past the age of thirty. You must to be accepting of delayed gratification. During the last of those twenty-five years, when you owe $250,000 in educational debt and are roaming hospital hallways at three a.m., your college classmates who chose business careers are at home sleeping in a house they’ve already purchased.
  5. A tolerance for sleeplessness. You must have the ability to thrive during early mornings and late nights. Scheduled surgeries start early in the morning, usually at 0730. Prior to that hour, anesthesiologists meet, evaluate, and obtain consent from their first patient, and then bring the patient to the operating room and safely render them unconscious. Not all cases start at sunrise—surgical patients get sick around the clock. Emergency surgeries may start at midnight or three o’clock in the morning. Anesthesiologists must be tolerant of fatigue and still be able to work unimpaired.
  6. Compulsive attention to detail. All aspects of anesthesia care, including a) the review of a patient’s medical condition prior to surgery, b) the planning and conduct of the anesthetic, and the management of medical conditions and c) complications immediately after surgery, require the anesthesiologist to avoid mistakes of any kind and to strive for near-perfection. Psychiatrists often diagnose OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) in patients. It’s probable that most anesthesiologists have a least a touch of OCD.
  7. Thick skin. You cannot be too hard on yourself, even though anesthesiologists are not allowed to have a bad day. A bad day in this career could mean a dead patient, a comatose patient, or a patient who was supposed to be discharged home instead lying in an intensive care unit on a ventilator. You’re human, and you may make a mistake. That mistake may have no consequence or it may cost a patient dearly. If a patient suffers a bad outcome secondary to a mistake you make, you’ll have to endure the emotional toll. There are stories of anesthesiologists who quit the specialty, become addicts, or commit suicide because a patient suffered a bad outcome. You can’t succumb.
  8. Excellent communication skills. You must be someone who can sell yourself to a patient in ten minutes. Anesthesiologists typically have ten minutes before surgery to interview a patient, examine them, obtain their consent, and gain their trust. The patient will be anxious. You need to assess and manage both their medical and their emotional needs at this demanding moment. An anesthesiologist’s patients are unconscious most of the time, but not all the time. If you want a medical career with zero awake hours of patient contact, consider pathology instead of anesthesiology. A successful anesthesiologist must also cooperate with different teams of surgeons, nurses, and medical techs every day. Surgeon personalities come in all varieties—some are demanding, some are condescending, and some are bullies. You have to work effectively with all types of surgeons, whether you admire that individual’s personality or not.
  9. Intelligence. Admission to anesthesia residency positions is very competitive. In 2014 there were only 1,049 anesthesia PG-1 (Post-Graduate Year 1) residency positions in the United States and 1,836 individuals who applied for these positions. Nearly 50% of applicants—all of them medical school seniors or medical school graduates—failed to land a position in anesthesia. (Ref: Results and Data, National Resident Matching Program 2014 http://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Main-Match-Results-and-Data-2014.pdf)
  10. A love for helping people. Every physician must have this. We spend years memorizing facts about physiology, disease, and pharmacology, but a successful doctor must care about each patient as an individual. Empathy for patients before, during, and after the day of their surgery and anesthesia is essential.

These are ten qualities I look for in an outstanding anesthesiologist. The next time you need surgery, I’d advise you to look for and expect the same qualities in the man or woman who will anesthetize you.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

 

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

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BLOOD PRESSURE DROPS TO 85/45 FOLLOWING THE INDUCTION OF ANESTHESIA: WHAT DO YOU DO?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

CLINICAL CASE: You’re scheduled to anesthetize a healthy 55-year-old female for an appendectomy. Her blood pressure is 150/90 on admission. In the operating room, you induce anesthesia with your standard recipe of 2 mg of midazolam, 100 mcg of fentanyl, 200 mg of propofol, and 40 mg of rocuronium, and intubate the trachea. Five minutes after induction and 15-30 minutes before the surgical incision will occur, her blood pressure drops to 85/45. Is this a problem? What will you do? What level of hypotension is acceptable to you?

Low blood pressure in surgery

DISCUSSION: During surgery, anesthesiologists balance their administration of drugs to the level of surgical stimulation the patient is experiencing. The placement of an endotracheal tube is an intense stimulus to an awake patient, but only a moderate stimulus to an anesthetized patient. After the placement of an endotracheal tube, a lag time of fifteen minutes to thirty minutes or more occurs prior to surgical incision. During this interval, the blood pressure sometimes sags.

Let’s look at the anesthesia literature to learn what has been described about this problem.

David Reich, et al of Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York queried the computerized anesthesia records of 4,096 patients undergoing general anesthesia and analyzed the incidence of hypotension in the period immediately after induction. (Predictors of hypotension after induction of general anesthesia Anesth Analg. 2005 Sep;101(3):622-8). The median blood pressure (MAP) was determined before anesthesia induction, during the first 5 minutes after induction, and also the period from 5-10 minutes after induction. Hypotension was defined as either (1) a mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) decrease of >40% and MAP

Statistically significant predictors of hypotension after anesthetic induction included: ASA III-V, baseline MAP

Dr. Reich wrote, “association with mortality alone was not reported in the manuscript but was nearly statistically significant (P = 0.066). The majority of our colleagues apparently believe that transient hypotension is inconsequential to outcomes. Although limited by the problems associated with retrospective studies, the results of our study provide preliminary evidence that runs counter to the prevailing wisdom regarding transient severe hypotension during general anesthesia.”

What level of hypotension is unsafe for patients?

The effects of hypotension in nonsurgical subjects was studied in 1954 (Finnerty, FA, Cerebral Hemodynamics during Cerebral Ischemia Induced by Acute Hypotension1 Clin Invest. 1954 Sep; 33(9): 1227–1232). Young and old experimental subjects were subjected to increasing degrees of hypotension until clinical signs of cerebral ischemia developed. Hypotension was induced by intravenous administration of the anti-hypertensive medication hexamethonium. The authors discovered a linear relation between pre-hypotensive blood pressure and the level of induced hypotension that produced clinical signs of cerebral ischemia such as yawning, sighing, staring, confusion, inability to concentrate, inability to perform simple commands, nausea, dizziness, and involuntary body movements. Their data revealed that the safe level of hypotension was no lower than about 2/3 of the resting blood pressure before inducing hypotension. At 2/3 of their pre-procedure MAP, patients reached a threshold of clinical cerebral ischemia, with onset of yawning, sighing, staring, confusion, inability to concentrate, and inability to carry out simple commands. Because these studies were done on unanesthetized humans, it’s impossible to equate the data to patients with surgical anesthesia. Surgical patients have a different etiology for their hypotension, as well as reduced cerebral oxygen consumption from general anesthetic drugs. This explains why most surgical patients fail to manifest any cerebral damage resulting from episodes of hypotension occasionally following the induction of anesthesia.

The problem of hypotension and refractory hypotension following induction of anesthesia is currently being studied in an ongoing clinical trial at the University of Iowa. (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02416024, contact Kenichi Ueda, MD, kenichi-ueda@uiowa.edu). Induction agents in this study will include 1.5 mg/kg propofol, 2 mcg/kg fentanyl, 100 mg lidocaine, and 0.6 mg/kg rocuronium. Inhaled anesthetic will be sevoflurane at 0.5 MAC with 5L/min of 100% oxygen starting at mask ventilation till 10 minutes after tracheal intubation. Blood pressure will be measured by a brachial cuff prior to induction and every minute after intubation for 10 minutes. If the systolic pressure drops below 90 mmHg or more than 25% from baseline, the patient will be classified in the study as “Hypotensive.” Conversely, if the patient’s systolic blood pressure does not drop below 90 mmHg more than 25% from baseline within 10 minutes of intubation, the patient will be classified as “Not Hypotensive.” In attempt to bring systolic blood pressure up to above 90 mmHg or more than 25% from baseline in “hypotensive” patients, the anesthetic provider will use 100 mcg of phenylephrine (or 5 mg ephedrine if heart rate < 50 bpm) within 10 minutes of intubation. If over 200 mcg of phenylephrine (or 10 mg ephedrine) has been used without a return of the systolic brachial blood pressure >90 mmHg or more than 25% from baseline, the patient will be classified in the study as “Refractory Hypotensive.” Look for the results of this trial to be published in years to come.

Based on the data reviewed in this column, it seems advisable to maintain a patient’s mean arterial pressure at or above a level of 2/3 of their baseline pressure. What if the patient’s baseline blood pressure in their outpatient clinic notes is 120/80 (MAP=93) yet in the pre-operative room on admission to surgery their blood pressure is 150/90 (MAP=110)? This is not an uncommon occurrence, as blood pressure often spikes secondary to the inevitable anxiety which accompanies a pending surgery. Is the anesthesia provider compelled to maintain the blood pressure at 2/3 of 110 = 73 after induction, or compelled to maintain the blood pressure at 2/3 of 93 = 62 after induction? I can find no specific data to answer this question. In my experience, after the administration of 2 mg of intravenous midazolam the hypertensive 150/90 often decreases to the 120/80 (MAP=93) range. With this MAP = 93 value as the baseline blood pressure, 2/3 X 93 = 62 would be the lowest level of MAP I’d feel comfortable with. We’re trained to treat post-induction hypotension with a vasopressor. Typically phenylephrine 100 mcg will increase the pressure to its preinduction level. Some patients require more than one dose of phenylephrine.

Let’s return to the management of your Clinical Case above.

  1. You choose to administer a dose of phenylephrine 100 mcg IV, and the blood pressure returns to 110/70. You maintain general anesthesia depth with the inhaled anesthetic sevoflurane at 0.5 MAC with 5L/min of 100% oxygen.
  2. Five minutes later the blood pressure drops to 85/45 again, and you repeat a dose of phenylephrine 100 mcg IV.
  3. When the surgery begins, the blood pressure increases to 150/90, and you treat by increasing anesthesia depth.
  4. Note that per the Reich data above, the incidence of hypotension increased with higher doses of fentanyl at induction (5-5.0 mcg/kg fentanyl vs. 0-1.5 mcg/kg fentanyl). I’ve found that the lower dose range of fentanyl, specifically zero fentanyl at induction, works very well for many patients. Incremental doses of propofol alone blunt the transient hypertensive response to laryngoscopy and intubation, and the lack of fentanyl leads to less hypotension in the ten minutes post-intubation. Appropriate levels of narcotics are then titrated in when surgery commences and the surgical stimulus increases. Also per Reich’s data, for patients age 50 or older who are ASA III-V, or for patients who present with a baseline pre-operative MAP.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

WILL YOU HAVE A BREATHING TUBE DOWN YOUR THROAT DURING YOUR SURGERY?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

One of the most common questions I hear from patients immediately prior to their surgical anesthetic is, “Will I have a breathing tube down my throat during anesthesia?”

The answer is: “It depends.”

placing anesthesia breathing tube

Let’s answer this question for some common surgeries:

KNEE ARTHROSCOPY: Common knee arthroscopy procedures are meniscectomies and anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions. Anesthetic options include general anesthesia, regional anesthesia, or local anesthesia. Most knee arthroscopies are performed under a general anesthetic, in which the anesthesiologist injects propofol into your intravenous line to make you fall asleep. After you’re asleep, the most common airway tube used for knee arthroscopy is a laryngeal mask airway (LMA). The LMA in inserted into your mouth, behind your tongue and past your uvula, to a depth just superior to your voice box. The majority of patients will breath on their own during surgery. The LMA keeps you from snoring or having significant obstruction of your airway passages. In select patients, including very obese patients, an endotracheal tube (ETT) will be inserted instead of an LMA. The ETT requires the anesthesiologist to look directly into your voice box and insert the tube through and past your vocal cords. With either the LMA or the ETT, you’ll be asleep and will have no awareness of the airway tube except for a sore throat after surgery. A lesser number of knee arthroscopies are performed under a regional anesthetic which does not require a breathing tube. The regional anesthetic options include a blockade of the femoral nerve located in your groin or numbing the entire lower half of your body with a spinal or epidural anesthetic injected into your low back. A small number of knee arthroscopies are done with local anesthesia injected into your knee joint, in combination with intravenous sedative medications into your IV. Why are most knee arthroscopies performed with general anesthesia, which typically requires an airway tube? Because in an anesthesiologist’s hands, an airway tube is a common intervention with an acceptable risk profile. A light general anesthetic is a simpler anesthetic than a femoral nerve block, a spinal, or an epidural anesthetic.

Laryngeal Mask Airway (LMA)

Endotracheal Tube (ETT)

NOSE AND THROAT SURGERIES SUCH AS TONSILLECTOMY AND RHINOPLASTY: Almost all nose and throat surgeries require an airway tube, so anesthetic gases and oxygen can be ventilated in and out through your windpipe safely during the time the surgeon is working on these breathing passages.

ABDOMINAL SURGERIES, INCLUDING LAPAROSCOPY: Almost all intra-abdominal surgeries require an airway tube to guarantee adequate ventilation of anesthetic gases and oxygen in and out of your lungs while the surgeon works inside your abdomen.

CHEST SURGERIES AND OPEN HEART SURGERIES: Almost all intra-thoracic surgeries require an airway tube to guarantee adequate ventilation of anesthetic gases and oxygen in and out of your lungs while the surgeon works inside your chest.

TOTAL KNEE REPLACEMENT AND TOTAL HIP REPLACEMENT: The majority of total knee and hip replacement surgeries are performed using spinal, epidural and/or nerve block anesthesia anesthesia to block pain to the lower half of the body. The anesthesiologist often chooses to supplement the regional anesthesia with intravenous sedation, or supplement with a general anesthetic which requires an airway tube. Why add sedation or general anesthesia to the regional block anesthesia? It’s simple: most patients have zero interest in being awake while they listen to the surgeon saw through their knee joint or hammer their new total hip into place.

CATARACT SURGERY: Cataract surgery is usually performed using numbing local anesthetic eye drop medications. Patients are wake or mildly sedated, and no airway tube is used.

COLONOSCOPY OR STOMACH ENDOSCOPY: These procedures are performed under intravenous sedation and almost never require an airway tube.

HAND OR FOOT SURGERIES: The anesthesiologist will choose the simplest anesthetic that suffices. Sometimes the choice is local anesthesia, with or without intravenous sedation. Sometimes the choice will be a regional nerve block to numb the extremity, with or without intravenous sedation. Many times the choice will be a general anesthetic, often with an airway tube. An LMA is used more frequently than an ETT.

CESAREAN SECTION: The preferred anesthetic is a spinal or epidural block which leaves the mother awake and alert to bond with her newborn immediately after childbirth. If the Cesarean section is an urgent emergency performed because of maternal bleeding or fetal distress, and there is inadequate time to insert a spinal or epidural local anesthetic into the mother’s lower back, a general anesthetic will be performed. An ETT is always used.

PEDIATRIC SURGERIES: Tonsillectomies are a common procedure and require a breathing tube as described above. Placement of pressure ventilation tubes into a child’s ears requires general anesthetic gases to be delivered via facemask only, and no airway tube is required. Almost all pediatric surgeries require general anesthesia. Infants, toddlers, and children need to be unconscious during surgery, for emotional reasons, because their parents are not present. The majority of pediatric general anesthetics require an airway tube.

CONCLUSIONS: The safe placement of airway tubes for multiple of types of surgeries, in patients varying from newborns to 100-year-olds, is one of the reasons physician anesthesiologists train for many years.

Prior to surgery, some patients are alarmed at the notion of such a breathing tube invading their body. They fear they’ll be awake during the placement of the breathing tube, or that they’ll choke on the breathing tube.

Be reassured that almost every breathing tube is placed after your unconsciousness is assured, and breathing tubes are removed prior to your return to consciousness. A sore throat afterward is common, but be reassured this is a minor complaint that will clear in a few days.

If you have any questions, be sure to discuss them with your own physician anesthesiologist when you meet him or her prior to your surgical procedure.

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

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THE TOP 10 MOST STRESSFUL JOBS IN AMERICA versus THE TOP 10 MOST STRESSFUL SITUATIONS IN ANESTHESIOLOGY PRACTICE

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Anesthesia has been described as 99% boredom and 1% panic. Is anesthesiology one of America’s most stressful jobs? Not according to prominent Internet media sources.

Careercast.com listed the Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs in America in 2015, and those jobs were:

  1. Firefighter
  2. Enlisted Military Personnel
  3. Military General
  4. Airline Pilot
  5. Police Officer
  6. Actor
  7. Broadcaster
  8. Event Coordinator
  9. Photo Journalist
  10. Newspaper Reporter.

ABCnews.go.com listed the Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs in America in 2014, and those jobs were:

  1. Working Parents
  2. Deployed Military Personnel
  3. Police Officer
  4. Teacher
  5. Medical Professionals (The article highlighted surgeons for their need to constantly focus, psychiatrists for their need to intently listen, dentists for being on their feet all day, and interns for their lack of sleep).
  6. Emergency Personnel (The article highlighted firefighters and emergency medical technicians).
  7. Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers
  8. Newspaper Reporters
  9. Corporate Executive
  10. Miner

Salary.com listed the Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs in America, and those jobs were:

  1. Military Personnel
  2. Surgeon
  3. Firefighter
  4. Commercial Airline Pilot
  5. Police Officer
  6. Registered Nurse in an Emergency Room
  7. Emergency Dispatch Personnel
  8. Newspaper Reporter
  9. Social Worker
  10. Teacher

“Anesthesiologist” is absent from every list. This is a public relations failure for our specialty. The challenges and stressors anesthesia professionals face every day are seemingly unknown to the media and the populace.

I’ll admit there are pressures involved with being a taxi driver, a news reporter, a photo journalist, an events coordinator, or a public relations executive. Being a working parent is a challenge, although in Northern California where I live millions of adults are working parents because both husbands and wives have to work to pay hefty Bay Area living expenses. But none of these jobs involve the risk and possibility of their clients dying each and every day.

Every surgical patient requires the utmost in vigilance from their physician anesthesiologist in order to prevent life-threatening disturbances of Airway-Breathing-Circulation. The public perceives surgeons as holding patients’ life in their skilled hands, and they are correct. But most surgeons spend the majority of their work time in clinics and on hospital wards attending to pre-operative and post-operative patients. On the 1 – 3 days a week most surgeons spend operating, they are joined in the operating room by anesthesiologists who attend to surgical patients’ lives every day.

Surgeons in trauma, cardiac, neurologic, abdominal, chest, vascular, pediatric, or microsurgery specialties have intense pressure during their hours in the operating room, but each time they don their sterile gloves and hold a scalpel, an anesthesiologist is there working with them.

What follows is my own personal “Top 10 Most Stressful” list, a list of the Most Stressful Anesthesia Situations based on my thirty years of anesthesia practice. Anesthesia practice has been described as 99% boredom and 1% panic, (http://theanesthesiaconsultant.com/is-anesthesia-99-boredom-and-1-panic) and the 1% panic times can be frightening. Read through this list. I believe it will convince you that the job of an anesthesiologist deserves to be on everyone’s Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs list.

TOP 10 MOST STRESSFUL SITUATIONS IN AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST’S JOB

  1. Emergency general anesthesia in a morbidly obese patient. Picture a 350-pound man with a bellyful of beer and pizza, who needs an emergency general anesthetic. When a patient with a Body Mass Index (BMI) > 40 needs to be put to sleep urgently, it’s dangerous. Oxygen reserves are low in a morbidly obese patient, and if the anesthesiologist is unable to place an endotracheal tube safely, there’s a genuine risk of hypoxic brain damage or cardiac arrest within minutes.
  1. Liver transplantation. Picture a patient ill with cirrhosis and end-stage-liver-failure who needs a complex 10 to 20-hour-long abdominal surgery, a surgery whichfrequently demands massive transfusion equal to one blood volume (5 liters) or more. These cases are maximally stressful in both intensity and duration.
  1. An emergency Cesarean section under general anesthesia in the wee hours of the morning. Picture a 3 a.m. emergency general anesthetic on a pregnant woman whose fetus is having cardiac decelerations (a risky slow heart rate pattern). The anesthesiologist needs to get the woman to sleep within minutes so the baby can be delivered by the obstetrician. Pregnant women have full stomachs and can have difficult airway because of weight changes and body habitus changes of term pregnancy. If the anesthesiologist mismanages the airway during emergency induction of anesthesia, both the mother and the child’s life are in danger from lack of oxygen within minutes.
  1. Acute epiglottitis in a child. Picture an 11-month-old boy crowing for every strained breath because the infection of acute epiglottis has caused swelling of his upper airway passage. These children arrive at the Emergency Room lethargic, gasping for breath, and turning blue. Safe anesthetic management requires urgently anesthetizing the child with inhaled sevoflurane, inserting an intravenous line, and placing a tracheal breathing tube before the child’s airway shuts down. A head and neck surgeon must be present to perform an emergency tracheostomy should the airway management by the anesthesiologist fails.
  1. Any emergency surgery on a newborn baby. Picture a one-pound newborn premature infant with a congenital defect that is a threat to his or her life. This defect may be a diaphragmatic hernia (the child’s intestines are herniated into the chest), an omphalocele (the child’s intestines are protruding from the anterior abdominal wall, spina bifida (a sac connected to the child’s spinal cord canal is open the air through a defect in the back), or a severe congenital heart disorder such as a transposition of the great vessels (the major blood vessels: the aorta, the vena cavas and the pulmonary artery, are attached to the heart in the wrong locations). Anesthetizing a patient this small for surgeries this big requires the utmost in skill and nerve.
  1. Acute anaphylaxis. Picture a patient’s blood pressure suddenly dropping to near zero and their airway passages constricting in a severe acute asthmatic attack. Immediate diagnosis is paramount, because intravenous epinephrine therapy will reverse most anaphylactic insults, and no other treatment is likely to be effective.
  1. Malignant Hyperthermia. Picture an emergency where an anesthetized patient’s temperature unexpectedly rises to over 104 degrees Fahrenheit due to hypermetabolic acidotic chemical changes in the patient’s skeletal muscles. The disease requires rapid diagnosis and treatment with the antidote dantrolene, as well as acute medical measures to decrease temperature, acidosis, and high blood potassium levels which can otherwise be fatal.
  1. An intraoperative myocardial infarction (heart attack). Picture an anesthetized 60-year-old patient who develops a sudden drop in their blood pressure due to failed pumping of their heart. This can occur because of an occluded coronary artery or a severe abnormal rhythm of their heart. Otherwise known as cardiogenic shock, this syndrome can lead to cardiac arrest unless the heart is supported with the precise correct amount of medications to increase the pumping function or improve the arrhythmia.
  1. Any massive trauma patient with injuries both to their airway and to their major vessels. Picture a motorcycle accident victim with a bloodied, smashed-in face and a blood pressure of near zero due to hemorrhage. The placement of an airway tube can be extremely difficult because of the altered anatomy of the head and neck, and the management of the circulation is urgent because of the empty heart and great vessels secondary to acute bleeding.
  1. The syndrome of “can’t intubate, can’t ventilate.” You’re the anesthesiologist. Picture any patient to whom you’ve just induced anesthesia, and your attempt to insert the tracheal breathing tube is impossible due to the patient’s anatomy. Next you attempt to ventilate oxygen into the patient’s lungs via a mask and bag, and you discover that you are unable to ventilate any adequate amount of oxygen. The beep-beep-beep of the oxygen saturation monitor is registering progressively lower notes, and the oximeter alarms as the patient’s oxygen saturation drops below 90%. If repeated attempts at intubation and ventilation fail and the patient’s oxygen saturation drops below 85-90% and remains low, the patient will incur hypoxic brain damage within 3 – 5 minutes. This situation is the worst-case scenario that every anesthesia professional must avoid if possible. If it does occur, the anesthesia professional or a surgical colleague must be ready and prepared to insert a surgical airway (cricothyroidotomy or tracheostomy) into the neck before enough time passes to cause irreversible brain damage.

So goes my list of Top 10 List of Stressful Anesthesia situations. If you’re an anesthesia professional, what other cases would you include on the list? Which cases would you delete? How many of these situations have you personally experienced?

This Top 10 Stressful Situations in Anesthesiology list should be enough to convince you that “Anesthesiologist” belongs on everyone’s Most Stressful Jobs list.

I would reassemble the Top 10 List of Most Stressful Jobs to be as follows:

The Anesthesia Consultant’s List of Top 10 Most Stressful Jobs

  1. Enlisted military personnel
  2. Military general in wartime
  3. Police Officer
  4. Firefighter
  5. Anesthesiologist
  6. Surgeon
  7. Emergency Room Physician
  8. Airline Pilot
  9. Air Traffic Controller
  10. Corporate Chief Executive Officer

HOW DO YOU START A PEDIATRIC ANESTHETIC WITHOUT A SECOND ANESTHESIOLOGIST?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Clinical Case: In your first week in community practice post-residency and fellowship, you’re scheduled to anesthetize a 4-year-old for a tonsillectomy. You’ll start the anesthetic without an attending or a second anesthesiologist. How do you start a pediatric anesthetic alone?

 

Discussion: During residency it’s standard to initiate pediatric cases with an attending at your right hand to mentor and assist you through the induction of anesthesia. The second pair of hands is critical—one of you manages the airway for the inhalation induction, and the second anesthesiologist starts the IV. In community practice you’ll have to manage all this yourself.

A significant percentage of pediatric anesthetics are performed in regional hospitals and surgery centers rather than in pediatric tertiary hospitals. How does the community practice of pediatric anesthesia differ from pediatric anesthesia in residency?

In community practice you’ll likely telephone the parents the night prior to surgery to discuss the anesthetic. It’s uncommon for a 4-year-old and his family to visit any pre-anesthesia clinic. You’ll take a history over the phone from the parents, explain the basics of anesthetic care, and answer any questions they have.

On the morning of surgery you’ll meet the parents and the child. It’s likely you’ll prescribe an oral midazolam premedication. You’ll set up your operating room with appropriate sized pediatric equipment, heeding the M-A-I-D-S mnemonic for Machine and Monitors-Airway-IV-Drugs-Suction.

What about a request from the mother and/or father to accompany the child into the operating room? This author advises against bringing parents into the O.R. Instead premedicate the child to minimize the emotional trauma of separation from the parent(s), and explain that the duration of time from when they hand you their child to when the gas mask is applied will only be a few minutes.

It’s common to induce anesthesia with the child in a sitting position. The one most important monitor you can place prior to induction is the pulse oximeter. Once unconsciousness is attained, the child is laid supine and a pretracheal stethoscope, the ECG leads, and the blood pressure cuff are applied. If you’re not using a pretracheal stethoscope during mask inductions, let me recommend it to you. No other monitor gives you immediate information on the patency of the airway like the stethoscope does. You can remedy partial or total airway obstruction more promptly than if you wait for oxygen desaturation or end-tidal CO2 changes.

Most children have an easy airway and require no more than occasional positive airway pressure via the mask to keep spontaneous ventilation open. Young children scheduled for tonsillectomy sometimes carry the diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) based on a clinical history of snoring, noisy breathing, or daytime somnolence. It’s uncommon for these patients to have a formal sleep study to document OSA. OSA children may have more challenging airways and have an increased incidence of partial airway obstruction during inhalation induction.

In residency I was taught to supplement the potent volatile anesthetic (halothane in decades past) with 50-70% nitrous oxide. Because the blood:gas partition coefficient of sevoflurane is 0.65, comparable to nitrous oxide’s 0.45, anesthetic induction with sevoflurane alone is nearly as fast as sevoflurane-nitrous oxide. The addition of nitrous oxide to the induction mix is unnecessary, and using an FIO2 of 1.0 affords an extra cushion of oxygen reservoir if the airway is difficult or if the airway is lost.

How will you start the IV after induction? There are several options: 1) You can ask the surgeon or a nurse to start the IV. In my experience, neither surgeons nor O.R. nurses are as skilled in starting pediatric IV’s as an anesthesiologist is, so I don’t recommend this plan; 2) You can ask the surgeon or the O.R. nurse to hold the mask and manage the airway while you start the IV. This option is safe if the airway is easy and you trust the airway skills of the other individual; 3) You can stand at your normal anesthesia position, hold the mask over the patient’s airway with your left hand, and ask the nurse to bend the patient’s left arm back toward you. The nurse tourniquets the patient’s arm at the wrist, and with your right hand you perform a one-handed IV start in the back of the patient’s left hand; 4) The option I feel most comfortable with is to fit mask straps behind the patient’s head, and secure the mask in place with the four straps after the patient is fully anesthetized (when their eyes have returned to a conjugate gaze). While the straps hold the mask in place, you listen to the patient’s breathing via the pretracheal stethoscope to assure yourself that the airway is patent. Then move to the left-hand side of the table and start the IV in the child’s left arm. The typical length of time away from the airway should be less than one minute. If the child has no obvious veins, fit the automated blood pressure cuff (in stat mode) on top of the tourniquet on the upper arm. The BP cuff is a superior tourniquet and the inflated cuff makes it easier to find a suitable vein.

Once the IV is in place, proceed with intubating the patient. In community practice the surgical duration of tonsillectomies can be very short, so the choice of muscle relaxant is important. Succinylcholine carries a black box warning for non-emergent use in children, and should not be used for elective intubation. You can: 1) administer rocuronium and later reverse the paralysis with neostigmine plus atropine; 2) administer a dose of propofol, e.g. 2 mg/kg, which blunts airway reflexes enough to allow excellent intubating conditions in most patients; or 3) you can do perform two laryngoscopies, the first to inject 1 ml of 4% lidocaine from a laryngotracheal anesthesia (LTA) kit, and another 30 seconds later to place the endotracheal tube in the now-anesthetized trachea. Some anesthesiologist/surgeon teams prefer an LMA rather than an endotracheal tube. LMA use for tonsillectomy is not routine in our practice, but one advantage is that an LMA does not require paralysis for insertion.

What if you’re working alone and your patient develops acute oxygen desaturation with airway obstruction and/or laryngospasm during inhalation induction before any IV has been placed? What do you do?

If you anesthetize enough children you will have this experience, and it can be frightening. The immediate management is to inject succinylcholine 4 mg/kg plus atropine 0.02 mg/kg intramuscularly, usually into the deltoid. Then you do your best to improve mask ventilation using an oral airway or LMA if necessary. The oxygen saturation may dip below 90% for a short period of time while you wait for the onset of the intramuscular paralysis. Once muscle relaxation is achieved, ventilation should be successful and the oxygen saturation will climb to a safe level. The trachea can then be intubated, and an IV can be started following the intubation.

If such a desaturation occurs, should you cancel the case? It depends. I’d recommend cancelling the case if: 1) the duration of the oxygen saturation was so prolonged that you are worried about hypoxic brain damage; or 2) gastric contents are present in the airway and you are concerned with possible pulmonary aspiration.

Working pediatric cases alone is rewarding as well as stressful. Nothing in my practice brings me as much joy as walking into the waiting room following a pediatric case to inform parents their child is awake and safe. The parents are relieved, and watching the mother-child reunion minutes later in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit is a heart-warming experience.

Not all anesthesiologists will choose to do pediatric cases during their post-residency career. If you will be anesthetizing children alone in community practice, it’s a good idea toward the end of your anesthesia residency or fellowship to ask your pediatric anesthesia attending keep their hands off during induction, so you can hone your skills managing both the airway and IV. That way you’ll be ready and capable of inducing a child alone after you leave training.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

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

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AIRWAY LAWSUITS

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

At weddings you’ll often hear a Bible verse that reads, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) A parallel verse in the bible of acute care medicine would read, “Emergencies are managed by airway, breathing, and circulation. But the greatest of these is airway.” The objective of this column is to help you avoid airway lawsuits.

 

Every health care professional learns the mantra of airway-breathing-circulation. Anesthesiologists are the undisputed champions of airway management. This column is to alert you that avoiding even one airway disaster during your career is vital.

Following my first deposition in a medical-legal case years ago, I was descending in the elevator and a man in a suit asked me what I was doing in the building that day. I told him I’d just testified as an expert witness. He asked me what my specialty was, and I told him I was an anesthesiologist. The whistled through his teeth and smirked. “Anesthesia,” he said, “Huge settlements!”

I’ve consulted on many medical malpractice cases which involved death or brain damage, and airway mishaps were the most common etiology. It’s possible for death or brain damage to occur secondary to cardiac problems (e.g. shock due to heart attacks or hypovolemia), or breathing problems (e.g. acute bronchospasm or a tension pneumothorax), but most deaths or brain damage involved airway problems. Included are failed intubations of the trachea, cannot-intubate-cannot-ventilate situations, botched tracheostomies, inadvertent or premature extubations, aspiration of gastric contents into unprotected airways, or airways lost during sedation by non-anesthesia professionals.

Google the keywords “anesthesia malpractice settlement,” and you’ll find multiple high-profile anesthesia closed claims, most of them related to airway disasters. Examples from such a Google search include:

  1. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin featured a multimillion-dollar verdict secured by the family of a woman who died after being improperly anesthetized for hip surgery. The anesthesiologist settled prior to trial, resulting in the family being awarded a total of $11.475 million for medical negligence. The 61-year-old mother and wife was hospitalized in Chicago for elective hip replacement surgery.  Because of a prior bad experience with the insertion of a breathing tube for general anesthesia, she requested a spinal anesthetic. Her anesthesiologist had trouble inserting a needle for the spinal anesthesia, so he went ahead with general anesthesia. The anesthesiologist was then unable, after several attempts, to insert the breathing tube. He planned to breathe for her through a mask and let her wake up to breathe on her own.  A second anesthesiologist came into the room and decided to attempt the intubation. He tried but was also unsuccessful. Finally, a third anesthesiologist came into the operating room and tried inserting the breathing tube several times. He too was unsuccessful. All of the attempts at inserting the tube caused the tissues in her airway to swell shut, blocking off oxygen and causing cardiac arrest. She suffered severe brain damage and died.
  2. $20 Million Verdict Reached in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Against Anesthesiologist. A jury returned a $20 million verdict in an anesthesia medical malpractice lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who died during surgery when bile entered her lungs. The wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the anesthetists failed to identify that the victim had risk factors for breathing fluid into her lungs, despite the information being available in her medical record. The victim was preparing to receive exploratory surgery to determine the cause of severe stomach pains when she received the anesthesia. Once anesthetized, she began breathing bile into her lungs. She then later died. The jury awarded $20 million in favor of the plaintiff.
  3. A $35 million medical malpractice settlement was matched by only one other as the largest settlement for a malpractice case in Illinois, and the most ever paid by the County of Cook for a settlement of a personal injury case. The client, a 28-year-old woman, suffered severe brain damage from the deprivation of oxygen resulting from the failure of an anesthesiologist to properly secure an intubation tube. The client, immediately following the occurrence, was in a persistent vegetative state from which the likelihood of recovery was virtually nil. Miraculously, she regained much of her cognitive functioning, although still suffering from significant physiological deficits requiring attendant care for the rest of her life.
  4. Anesthesia Death Results in $2 Million Settlement: 36-Year-Old Man Dies From Anesthesia Mishap Following Elective Hernia Repair Surgery. The plaintiff’s decedent was a 36-year-old man who died secondary to respiratory complications following an elective hernia repair. During the pre-operative anesthesia evaluation, the defendant noted the patient had never been intubated and had required a tracheostomy for a previous surgery. The defendant decided to administer general endotracheal anesthesia with rapid sequence induction. The surgery itself was without incident. Following extubation, the patient began to have difficulty breathing. The patient desaturated. The surgeon was called back to the OR to perform  a tracheostomy, however, there was no improvement in the patient’s oxygenation and he continued to have asystole. Subsequently, he went into respiratory arrest and coded. The code and CPR were unsuccessful, and the patient was pronounced dead.

Per Miller’s Anesthesia, failure to secure a patent airway can result in hypoxic brain injury or death in only a few minutes. Analysis of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Closed Claims Project database shows that the development of an airway emergency increases the odds of death or brain damage by 15-fold. Although the proportion of claims attributable to airway-related complications has decreased over the past thirty years since the adoption of pulse oximetry, end-tidal-CO2 monitoring, and the ASA Difficult Airway Algorithm, airway complications are still the second-most common cause of malpractice claims. (Miller’s Anesthesia, Chapter 55, Management of the Adult Airway, 2014).

In 2005, in the ASA-published Management of the Difficult Airway: A Closed Claims Analysis (Petersen GN, et al, Anesthesiology 2005; 103:33–9), the authors examined 179 claims for difficult airway management between 1985 and 1999. The timing of the difficult airway claims was: 67% upon induction, 15% during surgery, 12% at extubation, and 5% during recovery. Death or brain damage during induction of anesthesia decreased 35% in 1993–1999 compared with 1985–1992, but death or brain damage from difficult airway management during the maintenance, emergence, and recovery periods did not decrease during this second period. There is no denominator to compare with the numerator of the number of closed claims, so the prevalence of airway disasters was unknown.

Awake intubation is touted as the best strategy for elective management of the difficult airway for surgical patients. Fiberoptic scope intubation of the trachea in an awake, spontaneously ventilating patient is the gold standard for the management of the difficult airway. (Miller’s Anesthesia, Chapter 55, Management of the Adult Airway, 2014). Awake intubation is a useful tool to avert airway disaster on the oral anesthesiology board examination. Dr. Michael Champeau, one of my partners, has been an American Board of Anesthesiology Senior Examiner for over two decades. He tells me that oral board examinees choose awake intubation for nearly every difficult airway. This is wise–it’s hard to harm a patient who is awake and breathing on their own. Is the same strategy as easily implemented outside of the examination room? In actual clinical practice, an awake intubation may be a tougher sell. Awake intubations are time-consuming, require patience and understanding from the surgical team, and can be unpleasant to a patient who will be conscious until the endotracheal tube reaches the trachea–an event which can cause marked coughing, gagging, hypertension and tachycardia in an under-anesthetized person. As anesthesia providers, we perform hundreds of asleep intubations per year, and only a very small number of awake intubations. Inertia exists pushing anesthesia providers to go ahead and inject the propofol on most patients, rather than to take the time to topically anesthetize the airway and perform an awake intubation. But if you’ve ever lost the airway on induction and wound up with a “cannot intubate-cannot ventilate” patient, you’ll understand the wisdom in opting for an awake intubation on a difficult airway patient.

I refer you to Chapter 55 of Miller’s Anesthesia for a detailed treatise on the assessment and management of airways, which is beyond the scope of this column. In addition to the reading of Chapter 55, I offer the following clinical pearls based on my 30 years of practice and my experience at reviewing malpractice cases involving airway tragedies:

  1. Become skilled at assessing each patient’s airway prior to anesthesia induction. Pertinent information may be in the old chart or the patient’s oral history as well as in the physical examination. Red flags include: previous reports of difficulty passing a breathing tube, a previous tracheostomy scar, morbid obesity, a full beard, a receding mandible, inability to fully open the mouth, rigidity of the cervical spine, airway tumors or masses, or congenital airway deformities.
  2. Learn the ASA Difficult Algorithm and be prepared to follow it. (asahq.org/…/ASAHQ/…/standards-guidelines/practice-guidelines-for- management-of-the-difficult-airway.pdf‎).
  3. Become skilled with all critical airway skills, particularly mask ventilation, standard laryngoscopy, video laryngoscopy, placement of a laryngeal mask airway (LMA), fiberoptic intubation through an LMA, and awake fiberoptic laryngoscopy.
  4. Read the airway strategy recommended in the Appendix to Richard Jaffe’s Anesthesiologist’s Manual of Surgical Procedures, an approach which utilizes a cascade of the three critical skills of (A)standard laryngoscopy, (B)video laryngoscopy, and (C)fiberoptic intubation through an LMA. For a concise summary of this approach read my column Avoiding Airway Disasters in Anesthesia (http://theanesthesiaconsultant.com/2014/03/14/avoiding-airway-disasters-in-anesthesia).
  5. If you seriously ponder whether awake intubation is indicated, you probably should perform one. You don’t want to wind up with a hypoxic patient, anesthetized and paralyzed, who you can neither intubate nor ventilate.
  6. If you’re concerned about a difficult intubation or a difficult mask ventilation, get help before you begin the case. Enlist a second anesthesia provider to assist you with the induction/intubation.
  7. Take great care when you remove an airway tube on any patient with a difficult airway. Don’t extubate until vital signs are normal, the patient is awake, the patient opens their eyes, and the patient is demonstrating effective spontaneous respirations. An airway that was routine at the beginning of a surgery may be compromised at the end of surgery, due to head and neck edema, airway bleeding, or swollen airway structures, e.g. due to a long anesthetic with a prolonged time in Trendelenburg position.
  8. If you’re a non-anesthesia professional administering conscious sedation, never administer a general anesthetic sedative such as propofol. A combination of narcotic and benzodiazepines can be easily reversed by the antagonists naloxone and flumazenil if oversedation occurs. There is no reversal for propofol. Airway compromise from oversedation due to propofol must be managed by mask ventilation by an airway expert.

In its 1999 report, To Err Is Human:  Building a Safer Health System, the Institute of Medicine recognized anesthesiology as the only medical profession to reduce medical errors and increase patient safety. With the pulse oximeter, end-tidal-CO2 monitor, a myriad of airway devices, and the Difficult Airway Algorithm, the practice of anesthesia in the twenty-first century is safer than ever before. Let’s keep it that way.

Faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.

Airway, breathing, and circulation. The greatest of these is airway. Your patient’s airway.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

IS ANESTHESIA A CUSHY SPECIALTY?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Is anesthesia worthy of the House of God‘s assessment that it’s a cushy medical specialty? My answer, after thirty years of anesthesia practice, is … it depends.

Cover image of The House of God

Samuel Shem’s classic novel/satire of medicine, The House of God (published in 1978, more than two million copies sold), follows protagonist Dr. Roy Basch as he struggles through his year as an internal medicine intern. A second physician recommends Basch switch careers to one of six no-patient-contact specialties: Rays, Gas, Path, Derm, Eyes, or Psych. These names translate to radiology, anesthesia, pathology, dermatology, ophthalmology, and psychiatry. These specialties are touted as lower stress choices with superior lifestyles, where time with sick patients is minimized and the physician is more likely to be happy.

Is this true? Is anesthesia worthy of Samuel Shem’s assessment that it’s a cushy specialty?

My answer, after thirty years of anesthesia practice, is … it depends.

Let’s examine each of the six specialties regarding their perceived advantages:

• Radiology involves a career of peering at digital images of X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or ultrasound studies. Patient contact is minimal. Because many of these tests are ordered in emergency rooms at all hours of the night, on-call radiologists work long hours and endure sleepless nights. As well, the subspecialty of Invasive Radiology has become a hands-on field that requires as much patient contact as most surgical specialties.
• Pathology involves a career of peering through a microscope, running a clinical lab to determine blood and urine chemistry results, or performing autopsies. Most of pathology requires zero contact with living patients. Most pathology work is done in daylight hours, and loss of sleep is unusual.
• Dermatology involves a career of seeing a multitude of patients (think 80 – 100 per day) in a busy clinic practice. Patient volume and patient contact are high. Each clinic visit is brief because only the specific skin lesions in question are fair game for physician-patient interrogation. Hospitalized patients are uncommon, there are few emergencies, and loss of sleep is unusual.
• Ophthalmology involves an office practice of examining the vision and eyes of patients, as well as an operating room practice of performing cataract, retinal, or corneal surgeries. Other than an occasional eye trauma surgery at a late hour, loss of sleep for ophthalmologists is unusual.
• Psychiatry involves an outpatient practice of verbal therapy and/or prescribing oral medications (e.g. antidepressants, anti-anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder meds). Inpatient psychiatry is usually limited to patients with severe depression and psychotic diseases. Most emergencies are limited to patients with after-hours suicidal ideation or attempts. Loss of sleep is unusual.
• Anesthesiology involves providing unconsciousness and medical management to patients during all types of surgical interventions. Surgeries occur at all hours of the day and night. Loss of sleep is common, and job stress during select cases can be extreme. Let’s examine lifestyle issues of anesthesia practice in more detail:

An anesthesiologist and his or her awake surgical patient are only together for only 15 minutes prior to induction of anesthesia, during which time they exchange information on medical history and informed consent. This brief duration doesn’t exactly qualify for The House of God’s no-patient-contact list, but anesthesia does qualify as very-little-awake-patient contact. Minimal time with conscious patients appeals to physicians who don’t relish prolonged face-to-face patient interaction.

An image of your anesthesiologist playing tennis or golf and then waltzing into the operating room at leisure to do a simple surgery is mistaken. The presence of an anesthesiologist is imperative for nearly every emergency procedure. All emergency medical care follows the guideline of A-B-C, or Airway-Breathing-Circulation, and anesthesiologists are airway specialists nonpareil. Emergency room attendings and head and neck surgeons have certain airway skills, but no other specialty has the depth of airway expertise that anesthesiologists own. An anesthesiologist provides care for 500–1000 patients per year, and every one of these patients requires acute management of the airway to assure safe oxygenation and breathing.

Trauma surgery, childbirth, acute surgical disease from the emergency room, and organ transplant surgery are as common at night as in the daytime. An on-call anesthesiologist at a busy community hospital may arrive at 6:30 a.m., do seven or eight surgical anesthetics which last until dusk, and then remain in the hospital all night to perform several epidural anesthetics on laboring women, anesthetize an 80-year-old woman for surgery to relieve a bowel obstruction, and replace an endotracheal tube in a struggling patient in the intensive care unit as the sun comes up the following day. An on-call anesthesiologist at a university hospital may arrive at 6:30 a.m. and attend to a complex liver-transplant surgery which lasts 20 hours and concludes at 3 a.m. A cushy specialty? Hardly.

A lifestyle advantage for anesthesiologists is that we can work hard and play hard. It’s possible for an anesthesiologist to take weeks or months off at a time if their employer or anesthesia group approves. There’s no chronic patient care/patient follow up, no clinic overhead, and no clinic employee overhead. For these reasons an anesthesiologist can schedule multiple weeks without work or income more easily than a clinic doctor can. For these reasons it’s also possible for an anesthesiologist to work part time, i.e. two or three days each week. This scheduling flexibility is an excellent lifestyle advantage, and for this reason my answer to whether anesthesia is a cushy specialty is … it depends.

Some anesthesiologists choose to spend their career outside the operating room. Some specialize in pain management and see patients in outpatient pain clinics—selected patients are taken to the operating room non-urgently to receive pain-injection procedures such as epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, or pain pump insertions. A small number of anesthesiologists run preoperative assessment clinics where they assess the medical status of patients prior to surgery. A small number of anesthesiologists supervise intensive care units and manage critically patients who require ventilators, cardio-active medications, and anesthesia sedation infusions.

I’d like to leave you with one image imprinted in your mind—that of an anesthesiologist toiling over an ill patient at 2 a.m. in a hospital. The patient may have survived a car crash, suffered a ruptured appendix, be delivering twin babies, or be the recipient of a lung transplant. Wherever there’s a sick patient who needs acute supervised unconsciousness, there’s an anesthesiologist present. In words John Steinbeck wrote at the conclusion of The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad tells his mother,

“I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere.
Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.
Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there.
I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad.
I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.”

This prompts me to pen parallel text regarding my specialty, entitled
Tom Joad the Anesthesiologist:

I’ll be all around in the dark—I’ll be everywhere.
Wherever you can look—wherever there’s a motorcycle accident, a Cesarean section, a heart transplant, I’ll be there.
Wherever there’s a cop dragging a knifed-up gang member into the E.R., I’ll be there.
I’ll be there when the surgeon screams and when the new mother laughs,
When the 100-year-old gets his hernia mended and when the 4-year-old gets his tonsils out—I’ll be there, too.
Ma, it’s just what I do.
It’s what we all do.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

THE PERIOPERATIVE SURGICAL HOME HAS EXISTED FOR YEARS

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

The American Society of Anesthesiologists is supporting an expansion of the role of anesthesiologists in the delivery of perioperative care in hospitals. This proposed model is called the Perioperative Surgical Home. The American Society of Anesthesiologists defines the Perioperative Surgical Home as “a patient centered, innovative model of delivering health care during the entire patient surgical/procedural experience; from the time of the decision for surgery until the patient has recovered and returned to the care of his or her Patient Centered Medical Home or primary care provider.”

 

It’s a sound idea, and it resembles a model that’s existed for decades outside the hospital. In an outpatient surgery center the Perioperative Surgical Home concept is carried out by an anesthesiologist who is the Medical Director. I can speak to this, as I’ve been the Medical Director at a busy surgery center only minutes from Stanford University in downtown Palo Alto, for the past 12 years.

A surgery center Medical Director is responsible for:

  • All preoperative matters, including preoperative medical assessment of patients, scheduling of block times, surgical cases, anesthesia assignments, and creation of protocols,
  • All intraoperative matters, including quality issues, efficiency and turnover of cases, and the economics of running a profitable set of operating rooms, and
  • All postoperative matters, including overseeing Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) nursing care, post anesthesia medical decisions, and supervision of post-discharge follow up with patients.

All medical problems including complications, hospital transfers, and patient complaints, are routed through the anesthesiologist Medical Director.

A key difference between a surgery center and a hospital is scale. A busy hospital has dozens of operating rooms, hundreds of surgeries per day, and hundreds of inpatient beds. No one Medical Director can oversee all of this every day—it takes a team. At Stanford University Medical Center the anesthesia department is known as the Department of Anesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine. The word “Perioperative” is appropriate, because anesthesia practice involves medical care before, during, and after surgery. A team of anesthesiologists is uniquely qualified to oversee preoperative assessment, intraoperative management, and post-operative pain control and medical care in the hospital setting, just as the solitary Medical Director does in a surgery center setting.

A second key difference between a surgery center and a hospital is that medical care is more complex in a hospital. Patients are sicker, invasive surgeries disturb physiology to a greater degree, and patients stay overnight after surgery, often with significant pain control or intensive care requirements. Again, a team of physicians from a Department of Anesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine is best suited to supervise management of these problems.

The greatest hurdle to instituting the Perioperative Surgical Home model is pre-existing economic reality. In a hospital, other departments such as surgery, internal medicine, radiology, cardiology, pulmonology, and nursing are intimately involved in the perioperative management of surgery patients. Each of these departments has staff, a budget, income, and incentives related to maintaining their current role. Surgeons intake patients through their preoperative clinics, and may regard themselves as captains of the ship for all medical care on their own patients. Internal medicine doctors are called on for preoperative medical clearance on patients, and thus compete with anesthesia preoperative clinics. The internal medicine department includes hospitalists, inpatient doctors who may be involved in the post-operative management of inpatients. Invasive radiologists perform multiple non-invasive surgical procedures. Like their surgical colleagues, they may see themselves as decision makers for all medical care on their own patients. Cardiologists manage coronary care units and intensive care units in some hospitals, and may feel threatened by anesthesiologists intent on taking over their territory. Pulmonologists manage coronary care units and intensive care units in some hospitals, and may feel threatened by anesthesiologists intent on taking over their territory. Nurses are involved in all phases of perioperative care. If the chain of command among physicians changes, nurses must be willing partners of and participants with such change.

Why has the anesthesiology leadership role of a Medical Director evolved naturally at surgery centers while the Perioperative Surgical Home idea has to be sold to hospitals? At surgery centers the competing financial incentives of surgeons, internal medicine doctors, radiologists, pulmonologists, cardiologists, and nurses are minimal. In a freestanding surgery center, surgeons want to be able to depart for their offices following procedures, and welcome the skills that anesthesiologists bring to managing any medical complications that arise. Internal medicine doctors have no significant on-site role in surgery centers, although they are helpful office consultants for the anesthesiologist/Medical Director in assembling preoperative clearance for outpatients. Radiologists have no significant on-site role at most surgery centers—if they do perform invasive radiology procedures on outpatients, they too welcome the skills that anesthesiologists bring to managing medical complications that arise. Because there are no intensive care units at a surgery center, there is no role for pulmonary or cardiology specialists. Nursing leadership at a surgery center works hand-in-hand with the Medical Director to assure optimal nursing care of all patients.

Hospital administrators anticipate penetration of the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model for payment of medical care by insurers. In the ACO model, a medical center receives a predetermined bundled payment for each surgical procedure. The hospital and all specialties caring for that patient negotiate what percentage of that ACO payment each will receive. A Perioperative Surgical Home may or may not simplify this task. You can bet anesthesiologists see the Perioperative Surgical Home as a means to increase their piece of the pie. Ideally the Perioperative Surgical Home will be a means to streamline medical care, decrease costs, and increase profit for the hospital and all departments. Anesthesiologists are rightly concerned that if they don’t take the lead in this process, some other specialty will.

Establishing the Perioperative Surgical Home is an excellent opportunity for anesthesiologists to facilitate patient care in multiple aspects of hospital medicine. To make this dream a reality across multiple medical centers, anesthesiology leadership must demonstrate excellent public relations skills to convince administrators and chairpeople of the multiple other specialties. I expect data on outcomes improvement or cost-control to be slow and inadequate to proactively provoke this change. It will take significant lobbying, convincing, and promoting. Change will require a leap of faith for a hospital, and such change will only be accomplished by anesthesia leadership that captures the confidence of the hospital CEO and the chairs of multiple other departments.

I’m impressed by the adoption of the Perioperative Surgical Home at the University of California at Irvine. I’ve listened to Zev Kain, MD, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine lecture, and I’ve met him personally. He’s the prototype of the charismatic, intelligent, and convincing physician needed to convince others that the Perioperative Surgical Home is the model of the future.(http://www.anesthesiology.uci.edu/clinical_surgicalhome.shtml)

I expect the transition to the Perioperative Surgical Home to occur more easily in university or HMO hospitals than in community hospitals. It will be easier for academic or HMO chairmen to assign new roles to salaried physicians than it will be for community hospitals to control the behavior of multiple private physicians.

Anesthesiologists were leaders in improving perioperative safety by the discovery and adoption of pulse oximetry and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitoring. Can anesthesiologists lead the way again by championing the adoption of Perioperative Surgical Home on a wide scale? Time will tell. Is the Perioperative Surgical Home an optimal way to take care of surgical patients before, during, and after surgeries? I believe it is, just as the Medical Director is a successful model of how an anesthesiologist can optimally lead an outpatient surgery center. Those lobbying for the Perioperative Surgical Home would be wise to examine the successful role of anesthesiologist Medical Directors who’ve led outpatient surgery centers for years. The stakes are high. As intraoperative care becomes safer and the role of nurse anesthesia in the United States threatens to expand, it’s imperative that physician anesthesiologists assert their expertise outside the operating room.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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*
*
*

Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE ME TO WAKE UP FROM GENERAL ANESTHESIA?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

One of the most frequent questions I hear from patients before surgery is, “How long will it take me to wake up from general anesthesia?”

 

The answer is, “It depends.”

Your wake up from general anesthesia depends on:

  1. What drugs the anesthesia provider uses
  2. How long your surgery lasts
  3. How healthy, how old, and how slender you are
  4. What type of surgery you are having
  5. The skill level of your anesthesia provider

In best circumstances you’ll be awake and talking within 5 to 10 minutes from the time your anesthesia provider turns off the anesthetic. Let’s look at each of the five factors above regarding your wake up from general anesthesia depends on:.

  1. YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA DEPENDS ON WHAT DRUGS THE ANESTHETIST USES. The effects of modern anesthetic drugs wear off fast.
  • The most common intravenous anesthetic hypnotic drug is propofol. Propofol levels in your blood drop quickly after administration of the drug is terminated, resulting in rapid awakening.
  • The most common inhaled anesthetic drugs are sevoflurane, desflurane, and nitrous oxide. Each of these gases are exhaled from the body quickly after their administration is terminated, resulting in rapid awakening.
  • The most commonly used intravenous narcotic is fentanyl. Fentanyl levels in your blood drop quickly after administration of the drug is terminated, resulting in rapid awakening.
  • The most commonly used intravenous anti-anxiety drug is midazolam (Versed). Midazolam levels in your blood drop quickly after administration of the drug is terminated, resulting in rapid awakening.
  1. YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA DEPENDS ON HOW LONG YOUR SURGERY LASTS
  • The shorter your surgery lasts, the less injectable and inhaled drugs you will receive.
  • Lower doses and shorter exposure times to anesthetic drugs lead to a faster wake up time.
  1. YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA DEPENDS ON HOW HEALTHY, HOW OLD, AND HOW SLENDER YOU ARE
  • Healthy patients with fit hearts, lungs, and brains wake up sooner
  • Young patients wake up quicker than geriatric patients
  • Slender patients wake up quicker than very obese patients
  1. YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA DEPENDS ON WHAT TYPE OF SURGERY YOU ARE HAVING
  • A minor surgery with minimal post-operative pain, such a hammertoe repair or a tendon repair on your thumb, will lead to a faster wake up.
  • A complex surgery such as an open-heart procedure or a liver transplant will lead to a slower wake up.
  1. YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA DEPENDS ON THE SKILL LEVEL OF YOUR ANESTHETIST
  • Like any profession, the longer the duration of time a practitioner has rehearsed his or her art, the better they will perform. An experienced pilot is likely to perform smoother landings of his aircraft than a novice. An experienced anesthesiologist is likely to wake up his or her patients more quickly than a novice.
  • There are multiple possible recipes or techniques for an anesthetic plan for any given surgery. An advantageous recipe may include local anesthesia into the surgical site or a regional anesthetic block to minimize post-operative pain, rather than administering higher doses of intravenous narcotics or sedatives which can prolong wake up times. Experienced anesthesia providers develop reliable time-tested recipes for rapid wake ups.
  • Although I can’t site any data, I believe the additional training and experience of a board-certified anesthesiologist physician is an advantage over the training and experience of a certified nurse anesthetist.

YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA: EXAMPLE TIMELINE FOR A MORNING SURGERY

Let’s say you’re scheduled to have your gall bladder removed at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. This would be a typical timeline for your day:

6:00            You arrive at the operating room suite. You check in with front desk and nursing staff.

7:00             You meet your anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist. Your anesthesia provider reviews your chart, examines your airway, heart, and lungs, and explains the anesthetic plan and options to you. After you consent, he or she starts an intravenous line in your arm.

7:15             Your anesthesia provider administers intravenous midazolam (Versed) into your IV, and you become more relaxed and sedated within one minute. Your anesthesia provider wheels your gurney into the operating room, and you move yourself from the gurney to the operating room table. Because of the amnestic effect of the midazolam, you probably will not remember any of this.

7:30             Your anesthesia provider induces general anesthesia by injecting intravenous propofol and fentanyl, places a breathing tube into your windpipe, and administers inhaled sevoflurane and intravenous propofol to keep you asleep.

7:40            Your anesthesia provider, your surgeon, and the nurse move your body into optimal position on the operating room table. The nurse preps your skin with antiseptic, and the scrub tech frames your abdomen with sterile paper drapes. The surgeons wash their hands and don sterile gowns and gloves. The nurses prepare the video equipment so the surgeon can see inside your abdomen with a laparoscope during surgery.

8:00            The surgery begins.

8:45             The surgery ends. Your anesthesia provider turns off the anesthetics sevoflurane and propofol.

8:55             You open your eyes, and your anesthesia provider removes the breathing tube from your windpipe.

9:05             Your anesthesia provider transports you to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) on the original gurney you started on.

9:10            Your anesthesia provider explains your history to the PACU nurse, who will care for you for the next hour or two. The anesthesia provider then returns to the pre-operative area to meet their next patient. Your anesthesia provider is still responsible for your orders and your medical care until you leave the PACU. He or she is available on cell phone or beeper at all times. No family members are allowed in the PACU.

10:40            You are discharged from the PACU to your inpatient room, or to home if you are fit enough to leave the hospital or surgery center.

YOUR WAKE UP FROM ANESTHESIA . . . TO REVIEW:

  1. Even though the surgery only lasted 45 minutes, you were in the operating room for one hour and 35 minutes.
  2. It took you 10 minutes to awaken, from 8:45 to 8:55.
  3. Even though you were awake and talking at 8:55, you were unlikely to remember anything from that time.
  4. You probably had no memory of the time from the midazolam administration at 7:15 until after you’d reached in the PACU, when your consciousness level returned toward normal.

I refer you to a related column AN ANESTHESIA PATIENT QUESTION: WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG TO WAKE UP AFTER ANESTHESIA?”

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT RICK NOVAK’S FICTION WRITING AT RICK NOVAK.COM BY CLICKING ON THE PICTURE BELOW:

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HOW TO PREPARE TO SAFELY INDUCE GENERAL ANESTHESIA IN TWO MINUTES

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

How do you prepare to induce general anesthesia in two minutes? You’re called to induce anesthesia for a patient being rushed to the operating room for emergency surgery. You arrive at the operating room only minutes before the patient is scheduled to arrive. I recommend you use the mnemonic M-A-I-D-S as a checklist to prepare yourself and your equipment.

 

 

M stands for MACHINE and MONITORS. Check out your anesthesia machine first. Determine the oxygen sources are intact, and that the circle system is airtight when the pop-off valve is closed and your thumb occludes the patient end of the circle. Make sure the anesthesia vaporizer liquid anesthetic level is adequate. Check out your routine monitors next. Determine that the oximeter, end-tidal gas monitor, blood pressure cuff, and EKG monitors are turned on and ready.

A stands for AIRWAY equipment. Make sure an appropriate-sized anesthesia mask is attached to the circle system. Determine that your laryngoscope light is in working order. Prepare an appropriate sized endotracheal tube with a stylet inside. Have appropriate-sized oral airways and a laryngeal mask airway (LMA) available in case the airway is difficult. Make sure you have a stethoscope so you can examine the patient’s heart and lungs.

I stands for IV. Have an IV line prepared, and have the equipment to start an IV ready if the patient presents without an intravenous line acceptable for induction of anesthesia.

D stands for DRUGS. At the minimum you’ll need an induction agent (e.g. propofol or etomidate) and a muscle relaxant (succinylcholine or rocuronium), each loaded into a syringe. You’ll need narcotics and perhaps a dose of midazolam as well. Cardiovascular drugs to raise or lower blood pressure will be available in your drug drawer or Pyxis machine.

S stands for SUCTION. Never start an anesthetic without a working suction catheter at hand. You must be ready to suction vomit or blood out of the airway acutely if the need arises.

For pediatric patients the M-A-I-D-S mnemonic is followed, but in addition the size of your anesthesia equipment must be tailored to the age of the patient. Let’s say your patient is 4 years old. For M=MACHINE, you may need a smaller volume ventilation bag and hoses. For M=MONITORS, you’ll need a smaller blood pressure cuff, a smaller oximeter probe, and a precordial stethoscope if you use one. For A=AIRWAY, you’ll need smaller endotracheal tubes and airways. For I=IV, you’ll need smaller IV catheters and IV bags.

As a last-second check before a pediatric anesthetic, I recommend you pull out each drawer on your anesthesia machine, and then on your anesthesia cart, one at a time. Scan the contents of each drawer to ascertain whether you need any of the equipment there before you begin your anesthetic.

If you have any suspicion that the patient’s airway is going to be difficult, I recommend you ask to have a video laryngoscope and a fiberoptic laryngoscope brought into the operating room.

Once the patient arrives, utilize time to assess the situation as any doctor does. Take a quick history and perform a pertinent exam of the vital signs, airway, heart, lungs, and also a brief neuro check. Assist in positioning the patient on the operating room table, supervise the placement of routine monitors, and begin preoxygenating the patient. Induce anesthesia when you are ready.

Never be coerced to rush an anesthesia induction if your anesthesia setup or the patient’s physiology are not optimized. And always utilize the mnemonic M-A-I-D-S as an anesthesia checklist to confirm that your equipment is ready.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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

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THE EBOLA VIRUS, ANESTHESIA, AND SURGERY

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

A patient infected with the Ebola virus is admitted to your hospital’s intensive care unit. You are called to intubate the Ebola patient for respiratory failure. What do you do?

ebola medical ICU team

Discussion: The first patients infected with Ebola virus entered the United States in 2014. American physicians are inexperienced with caring for patients with this disease. Because of physicians’ commitments to care for the sick and injured, individual doctors will have an obligation to provide urgent medical care during disasters. This will include Ebola patients.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) published Recommendations From the ASA Ebola Workgroup on October 24, 2014.

Select information in my column today is abstracted, copied, and summarized from this detailed publication. Let’s begin by reviewing some facts about the disease.

Ebola is an enveloped, single-stranded RNA virus, one of several hemorrhagic viral families first identified in a 1976 outbreak near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Transmission of Ebola is via direct contact, droplet contact, or possibly contact with short-range aerosols. The virus is carried in the blood and body fluids of an infected patient (i.e. urine, feces, saliva, vomit, breast milk, sweat, and semen). Risky exposures include exposure of your broken skin or mucous membranes to a percutaneous contaminated sharps injury, to contaminated fomites (a fomite is an inanimate object or substance, such as clothing, furniture, or soap, that is capable of transmitting infectious organisms from one individual to another), or to infected animals.

The case definition for Ebola includes fever, an epidemiologic risk factor including travel to West Africa (or exposure to someone who has recently traveled there), and one or more of these symptoms: severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, unexplained bleeding or bruising (appearing anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure), a maculopapular rash, disseminated intravascular coagulation, or multi-organ failure.

Although coughing and sneezing are not common symptoms of Ebola, if a symptomatic patient with Ebola coughs or sneezes on someone and saliva or mucus come into contact with that person’s eyes, nose or mouth, these fluids may transmit the disease. Ebola can survive outside the body on dry surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops for several hours. Virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature.

The treatment for Ebola is symptomatic management of volume status using blood bank products as indicated, and management of electrolytes, oxygenation, and hemodynamics.

Healthcare professionals must wear protective outfits when treating Ebola patients. Routine Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must include the following (when properly garbed, there should be no exposed skin):

  1. Surgical hood to ensure complete coverage of head and neck,
  2. Single-use face shield (goggles are no longer recommended due to issues with fogging and difficulty cleaning),
  3. N95 mask,
  4. An impermeable gown (with sleeves) that extends at least to mid-calf or coverall without a one-piece integrated hood (consideration should be given to wearing a protective coverall layer under the impermeable gown, which allows for layered protection and progressively less contaminated layers when doffing),
  5. Double gloves (i.e., disposable nitrile gloves with a cuff that extends beyond the cuff of the gown), the cuff of the first pair is worn under the gown and the second cuff should be over the gown, impermeable shoe covers that go to at least mid-calf or leg covers (there must be overlap of the impermeable layers),
  6. Impermeable and washable shoes,
  7. An apron that is waterproof and covers the torso to the level of the mid-calf should be used if Ebola patients have vomiting or diarrhea.

Enhanced Precaution PPE is advised for aerosol generating procedures such as intubation, extubation, bronchoscopy, airway suction, and surgery. This is the recommended level of PPE for anesthesiologists. Enhanced Precaution PPE includes:

  1. Personal Air-Purifying Respirator (PAPR) with full face piece mask,
  2. A disposable hood that extends to the shoulders and is compatible with the selected PAPR,
  3. A coverall without one-piece hood,
  4. Triple gloves (i.e., disposable nitrile with a cuff that extends beyond the cuff of the gown), the cuff of the first pair is worn under the gown and the second cuff should be over the gown and taped, and a third pair of disposable extended cuff nitrile gloves,
  5. Impermeable and washable shoes,
  6. Impermeable shoe covers, and
  7. Duct tape over all seams.

PPE donning (i.e. dressing in PPE outfit) must be performed in the proper order and monitored by a trained observer using a donning checklist. There should be separate designated areas for storage and donning of PPE (an adjacent patient care area), one-way movement to the patient’s room, and an exit to a separate room or anteroom for doffing procedures and disposal.

Doffing (i.e. PPE removal) is a high-risk process that requires a structured procedure, a trained observer (also in PPE), and a designated removal area. Doffing needs to be a slow and deliberate process and must be performed in the correct sequence using a doffing checklist.

Let’s return to our original question. What about that stat intubation you were called to perform in the ICU?

Stat intubations are not to be attempted on Ebola patients by anesthesiologists until the physician has properly donned the Enhanced Precaution PPE outfit. This necessitates significant time. Full Enhanced Precaution PPE precautions are mandated regardless of an emergency status or acute deterioration in patient status. Fiberoptic bronchoscopes are not recommended as aerosolization will occur and adequate cleaning is difficult. All equipment brought into the patient’s room must remain there and will be unusable for an indefinite period of time. Due to the extended time necessary to properly don and doff Enhanced Precaution PPE, an intubation of an Ebola patient could potentially take ninety minutes or longer when accounting for proper donning and doffing procedures.

What about performing surgery and anesthesia on Ebola patients? Patients with severe active disease would not likely tolerate an operation due to the severity of their disease. Any decision to operate should weigh all risks and benefits, specifically the risk of death from the current severity of the Ebola disease, the risk of death from their surgical disease, and the risk of exposure to the operating room team against the likelihood of potential benefit of emergency surgery.

Every effort should be given to keeping the patient in their own isolation room, and moving surgical and anesthetic equipment to the bedside. If possible, all procedures should be performed in the patient’s room.  Every effort should be given to keeping the patient in their own isolation room and moving surgical and anesthetic equipment to the bedside.

If it’s not feasible to perform the procedure or surgery in the intensive care unit room, an operating room should be designated for the patient. Preferably, this operating room should be away from traffic flow, have an anteroom, and not be connected to a clean core.

Transportation to and from the operating room hallways near the designated operating room should be blocked off.  Adjacent operating rooms will be closed. Traffic flow must be limited to only essential personnel involved with the case. PPE must be donned prior to entering the patient’s room.

Recovery from anesthesia will occur in the operating room or the patient’s hospital room, and not in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).

These are the recommendations regarding operating room anesthesia set-up:

  1. Drawers of the anesthesia machine should be emptied except for the bare minimum of supplies.
  2. All additional items from atop the machine removed.
  3. The drawers should not be accessed unless absolutely necessary.
  4. All paperwork/laminated protocols and non-essential items must be removed from the machine.
  5. The anesthesia cart should be removed from the room and will not be directly accessible once the patient enters.
  6. An isolation cart (stainless steel or other easily cleanable table) should be stocked with all anticipated medications, emergency medications, syringes, needles, I.V. fluids (multiple), I.V. supplies, arterial line supplies, tubing, suction catheters, NG tubes, endotracheal tubes of appropriate size, additional ECG electrodes, gauze, chlorhexidine or alcohol pads, saline flushes, an extra BP cuff, a sharps container, additional gloves, and any additional equipment and supplies which the anesthesia attending for the cases requests.

Once the patient enters the operating room, absolutely no entry or exit from the operating room will occur without following PPE protocols. As such, bathroom and personal needs should be attended to prior to transporting the patient.

These are recommendations from The American Society of Anesthesiologists Ebola Workgroup. American physicians hope the number of Ebola cases in the United States will approach zero. As anesthesiologists we hope we’ll never be called to intubate or perform anesthesia on a patient infected with Ebola, but we understand our commitment to care for the sick and injured, and we understand that we have an obligation to provide urgent medical care during disasters.

Every hospital in America is in the process of understanding and implementing the above procedures regarding the isolation and protection of healthcare providers from the Ebola virus. If an Ebola patient is admitted to your hospital, I refer you to the Association for Biosafety and Biosecurity.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

 

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

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TEN REASONS NURSE ANESTHETISTS (CRNAs) WILL BE A MAJOR FACTOR IN ANESTHESIA CARE IN THE 21ST CENTURY

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

 

My debut novel, The Doctor and Mr. Dylan features a nurse anesthetist in the starring role of Mr. Dylan. Nurse anesthetists have provided anesthesia care in the United States for nearly 150 years, and CRNs will be a major factor in the future.

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In the beginning, anesthesia care for surgical patients was often provided by trained nurses under the supervision of surgeons, until the establishment of anesthesiology as a medical specialty in the U.S. in the 20th century.

Here are 10 reasons why certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) will be a major factor in anesthesia care in the 21st century:

1. Rural America is dependent on CRNAs to staff surgery in small towns underserved by MD anesthesiologists. CRNAs are involved in providing anesthesia services to about one-quarter of the American population that resides in rural and frontier areas of this country. Despite a significant rise in the number of anesthesiologists in recent years, there is no evidence that they are attracted to practice in rural areas.
2. Obamacare will increase the demand for mid-level healthcare providers, e.g. nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurse anesthetists. These mid-level providers are perceived as a cheaper alternative to MD health care.
3. Seventeen states have opted out of the requirement for physician supervision of CRNA anesthetics. These states are Iowa, Nebraska, Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Kansas, North Dakota, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota, Wisconsin, California, Colorado, and Kentucky. In these states, it’s legal for a CRNA to give an anesthetic without a supervising anesthesiologist or surgeon.
4. For cost-saving reasons, hospital administrators will consider the lower hourly rate charged by CRNAs to be a saving over MD anesthesia care rendered by anesthesiologists alone.
5. Future trends such as the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Perioperative Surgical Home or bundled payments to Accountable Care Organizations will seek out the cheapest way to manage anesthetic populations. A likely economic model for a healthy patient population is the anesthesia care team, e.g. a 4:1 ratio of four CRNAs supervised by one MD anesthesiologist. This model can be used to staff four simultaneous surgeries on four healthy patients having simple surgical procedures. More complex procedures such as open-heart surgery, brain surgery, major vascular surgery, or emergency surgery will be best served by MD anesthesia care. Extremes of age (e.g. neonates or very old patients) and patients with significant medical comorbidities will be best served by MD anesthesia care.
6. Certain regions of the United States, particularly the South and the Midwest, are already entrenched with anesthesia care team models of 3:1 or 4:1 CRNA:MD staffing because of anesthesiologist preference. An MD anesthesiologist’s income can be augmented by supervising three or four operating rooms with multiple CRNAs simultaneously. These physicians will have little desire to rid themselves of nurse anesthetists and to personally do only one case at a time by themselves.
7. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) presents a strong, well-funded lobby which promotes the continuing and increasing role of CRNAs in medical care in the United States.
8. The educational cost for a registered nurse to become a CRNA is significantly less than the cost of training a board-certified MD anesthesiologist. The median cost of a public CRNA program is $40,195 and the median cost of a private program is $60,941, with an overall median of $51,720.
9. A registered nurse can significantly increase their income by becoming a CRNA. A registered nurse with one year of intensive care unit or post-anesthesia care unit experience can become a CRNA with 2-3 years of CRNA schooling. The average yearly salary of a CRNA in America in 2011 was $156,642.
10. The increasing starring role of CRNAs in American fiction ☺. (See The Doctor and Mr. Dylan, below)

After perusing this list one might ask, are CRNAs and anesthesiologists equals?
No, they are not. Anesthesiologists are doctors, and their training of four years of medical school followed by a minimum of four years of anesthesia residency makes them specialists in all aspects of surgical medicine.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists’ STATEMENT ON THE ANESTHESIA CARE TEAM states “Anesthesiology is the practice of medicine including, but not limited to, preoperative patient evaluation, anesthetic planning, intraoperative and postoperative care and the management of systems and personnel that support these activities. In addition, anesthesiology includes perioperative consultation, the management of coexisting disease, the prevention and management of untoward perioperative patient conditions, the treatment of acute and chronic pain, and the practice of critical care medicine. This care is personally provided by or directed by the anesthesiologist.” (Approved by the ASA House of Delegates on October 26, 1982, and last amended on October 16, 2013)

Doctor J H Silber’s landmark study from the University of Pennsylvania documented that both 30-day mortality and failure-to-rescue rates were lower when anesthesia care was supervised by anesthesiologists, as opposed to anesthesia care by unsupervised nurse anesthetists. This study has been widely discussed. The CRNA community dismissed the conclusions, citing that the Silber study was a retrospective study. In a Letter to the Editor published in Anesthesiology, Dr. Bruce Kleinman wrote regarding the Silber data, “this study could not and does not address the key issue: can CRNAs practice independently?”

I’m not a fan of CRNAs working alone without physician supervision. In both my expert witness practice and in the expert witness practice of my anesthesia colleagues, we find multiple adverse outcomes related to acute anesthetic care carried out by non-anesthesiologists.

CRNAs will play a significant role in American healthcare in the future. That significant role will be best played with an MD anesthesiologist at their right hand.

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

WHAT ONE QUESTION SHOULD YOU ASK TO DETERMINE IF A PATIENT IS ACUTELY ILL?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

What one question should you ask to determine whether a patient has a serious medical problem? What one question must you ask to determine whether urgent intervention is required?

Imagine this scenario: You’re an anesthesiologist giving anesthesia care in the operating room to your second patient of the day. The Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) nurse calls you regarding your first patient who is in the PACU following appendectomy. The nurse says, “Your patient Mr. Jones is still nauseated and very sleepy. I’ve medicated him with ondansetron and metoclopramide as ordered, but he’s still nauseated and sleepy.”

That one question would be: “What are his vital signs?”(This is a bit of a trick question, since you are asking not one question, but four or five. It’s as if you’re down to your last request from the Genie from Aladdin’s lamp, and you’re wishing for more wishes. As Robin Williams’ Genie character said in Disney’s Aladdin, “Three wishes, to be exact. And ixnay on the wishing for more wishes. That’s all. Three. Uno, dos, tres. No substitutions, exchanges or refunds.” )

The traditional four vital signs are the blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. For anesthesiologists, surgeons, emergency room physicians, and ICU doctors, the fifth vital sign is the oxygen saturation or O2 sat. Some publications tout the pain score (on a 1-10 scale) as a fifth vital sign. While I subscribe to the pain score’s importance, it’s of less value in most acute care situations than the O2 saturation.

Let’s return to the patient scenario. You ask the nurse, “What are the patient’s vital signs?”

The nurse answers, “His heart rate is 48, his blood pressure is 88/55, his O2 sat is 100, and his respiratory rate is 16.”

You answer, “His heart rate is too low and so is his blood pressure. Let’s give him 0.5 mg atropine IV now.”

Five minutes later the nurse calls back. The heart rate increased to 72 and the blood pressure is 110/77. The patient’s symptoms resolved as the vital signs normalized.

Let’s look at a second scenario. You drop off a 48-year-old hysterectomy patient in the PACU. The patient is awake, and her initial vital signs are BP 120/64, pulse 100, respirations 18, and O2 saturation 99%. You return to the operating room to initiate care for your next patient for a laparoscopy. Thirty minutes later, the PACU nurse calls you to report your first patient has increasing abdominal discomfort. Her repeat vital signs are: BP 110/80, pulse 130, respirations 26, and O2 saturation 99%. You’re concerned an intra-abdominal complication is brewing. Five minutes later, the nurse reports a third set of vitals. The patient’s heart rate continues to rise to 140. Her blood pressure is now 82/40, her respirations are 30, and her skin has become cold and moist to the touch. She’s unable to speak coherently and is losing consciousness. You can not leave the patient you are anesthetizing, but you call a fellow anesthesiologist to evaluate the patient in person, and prepare her for emergent re-operation.

The patient’s initial vital signs were stable, but the downward trend of her vital signs were a harbinger of the serious complication. Eventually the symptoms of abdominal pain and decreasing consciousness appeared, and confirmed the diagnosis of intra-abdominal hemorrhage and impending shock. The increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and increased respiratory rate were red flags early on.

Abnormal vital signs can indicate that a patient is acutely ill. Equally important to the value of each vital sign is the temporal trend in the vital signs. A vital sign trend increasing or decreasing from the normal range can validate that the patient is becoming acutely ill.

You may be thinking, why is Dr. Novak telling me vital signs are important? Everybody know vital signs are, well … vital.

My message to you is to seek out the vital signs, all of them, as essential clues in all patients.

As anesthesiologists, we spend our entire intraoperative clinical career staring at a patient’s vital signs on a video screen. When the blood pressure goes up, we act. When the blood pressure goes down, we act. When the heart rate goes up, we act, and when the heart rate goes down, we act. When oxygen saturation trends downward, we act. Because most intraoperative patients are unconscious, the patient’s verbal history—the traditional clues regarding acute illness—are unavailable. We can not ask our patient questions to determine whether vital sign changes are associated with symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, or neurologic deficits. We’re accustomed to treating patients by normalizing their vital signs.

Other healthcare providers lack this perspective. Nurses and non-acute-care physicians such as family practitioners and internists can fill a patient’s history chock full of other details so thick that the vital signs are buried. The five or six vital sign numbers are often obscured in pages of text. Most physician and nursing notes in an electronic medical record (EMR) are lengthy, and are many are copied and pasted from previous encounters. Each patient interview is a quiz bowl of medical history answers. The five or six vital sign numbers are a needle in the haystack of a modern medical history. The EMR in a clinic or a hospital can serve to worsen this plight, as vital signs are recorded by nurses and entered into nursing documents on the computer, and treating physicians may have to dig to find the correct page that lists vital signs. One possible benefit of an EMR is a proposed safety system that requires, for any abnormal vital sign entered into the computer, the nurse to document they have verbally informed a physician of that abnormal value. This system would assure that abnormal values are never ignored, and that an MD will assess whether further diagnostic or therapeutic steps need to be taken.

Ferret out the vital signs. In my career as a clinical anesthesiologist and anesthesia expert witness, I can’t recall one significant complication that wasn’t foretold by an increased or decreased heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, or temperature, a decreased O2 saturation, or an increased pain score.

Keep your eye on the vitals, and keep your patients out of trouble.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

DO YOU NEED AN ANESTHESIOLOGIST FOR ENDOSCOPY OF YOUR ESOPHAGUS, STOMACH, AND UPPER GASTROENTEROLOGIC TRACT?

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

Do you need an anesthesiologist for upper gastrointestinal endoscopy? In the aftermath of Joan Rivers’ tragic death following an upper endoscopy procedure at a New York outpatient surgery center, every news bureau is discussing this topic. Because I have no inside information on Joan Rivers’ medical care during her procedure, I will not judge her physicians, rather I will attempt to answer the specific question:

Do you need an anesthesiologist for an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy?

The answer to the question is:  it depends.  It depends on 1) your health, 2) the conscious sedation skills of your gastroenterologist, and 3) the facility you have your endoscopy at.

1)  YOUR HEALTH. The majority of endoscopies in the United States are performed under conscious sedation.  Conscious sedation is administered by a registered nurse, under specific orders from the gastroenterologist.  The typical drugs are Versed (midazolam) and fentanyl.  Versed is a benzodiazepine, or Valium-like medication, that is superb in reducing anxiety, sleepiness, and producing amnesia.  Fentanyl is a narcotic pain reliever, similar to a short-acting morphine.  The combination of these two types of medications renders a patient sleepy but awake.  Most patients can minimal or no recollection of the endoscopy procedure when under the influence of these two drugs.  I can speak from personal experience, as I had an endoscopy myself, with conscious sedation with Versed and fentanyl, and I remembered nothing of the procedure.

If you are a reasonably healthy adult, you should be fine having the procedure under conscious sedation.  Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, obesity, mild to moderate sleep apnea, advanced age, or stable cardiac disease are have conscious sedation for colonoscopies in America every day, without significant complications.

Certain patients are not good candidates for conscious sedation, and require an anesthesiologist for sedation or general anesthesia.  Included in this category are a) patients on large doses of chronic narcotics for chronic pain, who are tolerant to the fentanyl and are therefore difficult to sedate, b) certain patients with morbid obesity, c) certain patients with severe sleep apnea, and d) certain patients with severe heart or breathing problems.

2)  THE CONSCIOUS SEDATION SKILLS OF YOUR GASTROENTEROLOGIST.  Most gastroenterologists are comfortable directing registered nurses in the administration of conscious sedation drugs.  Some, however, are not.  These gastroenterologists will disclose this to their patients, and recommend that an anesthesiologist administer general anesthesia for the procedure.

3) THE FACILITY YOU HAVE YOUR ENDOSCOPY AT.  Most endoscopy facilities have nurses and gastroenterologists comfortable with conscious sedation.  Some do not.  The facility you are referred to may have a consistent policy of having an anesthesiologist administer general anesthesia with propofol for all endoscopies.  If this is true, they should disclose this to you, the patient, before you arrive for the procedure.  A facility which always utilizes general anesthesia means that you, the patient, will incur one extra physician bill for your procedure, from an anesthesiologist.

I refer you to an article from the New York Times, which summarizes the anesthesiologist-propofol-for-endoscopy phenomenon in the New York region in 2012:

One last point: If the drugs Versed and fentanyl are used, there exist specific and effective antidotes for each drug if the patient becomes oversedated. The antagonist for Versed is Romazicon (flumazenil), and the antagonist for fentanyl is Narcan (naloxone). If these drugs are injected promptly into the IV of an oversedated patient, the patient will wake up in seconds, before any oxygen deprivation affects the brain or heart.

Propofol, however, has no specific antagonist. Propofol only wears off as it is redistributed out of the blood stream into other tissues, and its blood level declines. A propofol overdose can cause obstruction of breathing, and/or depression of breathing, such that the blood oxygen level is insufficient for the brain and heart. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that a Black Box warning be included in the packaging of every box of propofol. That warning states that propofol “should be administered only by persons trained in the administration of general anesthesia and not involved in the conduct of the surgical/diagnostic procedure.”

Anesthesiologists are experts at using propofol. I administer propofol to 99% of my patients who are undergoing general anesthesia for a surgical procedure. Anesthesiologists are experts at managing airways and breathing. Individuals who are not trained to administer general anesthesia should never administer propofol to a patient, in a hospital or in an outpatient surgery center.

I serve as the medical director of an outpatient surgery center in Palo Alto, California. We perform a variety of orthopedic, head and neck, plastic, ophthalmic, and general surgery procedures safely each year. In addition, our gastroenterologists perform thousands of endoscopies each year. I review the charts of the endoscopy patients as well as the surgical patients prior to the procedures, and in our center, approximately 99% of endoscopies can be safely performed under Versed and fentanyl conscious sedation, without the need for an anesthesiologist attending to the patient.

If you have an endoscopy, ask questions. Will you receive conscious sedation with drugs like Versed and fentanyl, or will an anesthesiology professional administer propofol? You deserve to know.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan:

41wlRoWITkL

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

DSC04882_edited

 

 

HERBAL MEDICINES, SURGERY, AND ANESTHESIA

Physician anesthesiologist at Stanford at Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group
Richard Novak, MD is a Stanford physician board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine.Dr. Novak is an Adjunct Clinical Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Stanford University, the Medical Director at Waverley Surgery Center in Palo Alto, California, and a member of the Associated Anesthesiologists Medical Group in Palo Alto, California.
email rjnov@yahoo.com
phone 650-465-5997
Latest posts by the anesthesia consultant (see all)

An otherwise healthy 50-year-old female patient takes three herb pills daily: gingko, kava, and ginseng. What do you do when this patient needs elective surgery for an ACL reconstruction two days from now? Do you cancel surgery and stop the herbal medicines, or should you proceed?

My goal is to give you practical advice on how to proceed in the real world of anesthesia and surgical practice. We all know herbal medicines are out there. Do they matter? What is the evidence that herbal medicines affect surgical outcomes in an adverse way?

Many commonly used herbal medicines have side effects that affect drug metabolism, bleeding, and the central nervous system. In 2002 35% of Americans used complementary alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, and visits to CAM practitioners exceeded those to American primary care physicians (Tindle et al: Trends in use of complementary and alternative medicine by US adults: 1997-2002. Altern Ther Health Med 2005; 11:42). CAM practitioners include homeopathic medicine, meditation, art, music, or dance therapy, herbal medicines, dietary supplements, chiropractic manipulation, osteopathic medicine, massage, and acupuncture.

The finest review of herbal medicines and anesthesia is Chapter 33 in Miller’s Anesthesia, 7th Edition, 2009, authored by Ang-Lee, Yuan, and Moss. The authors write, “Many patients fail to volunteer information regarding herb and alternative medicine pills unless they are specifically asked about herbal medication use. Scientific knowledge in this area is still incomplete. There are no randomized, controlled trials that have evaluated the effects of prior herbal medicine use on the period immediately before, during and after surgery.” They go on to say, “preoperative use of herbal medicines has been associated with adverse perioperative events,” and “Because herbal medicines are classified as dietary supplements, they are not subject to preclinical animal studies, premarketing controlled clinical trials, or postmarketing surveillance. Under current law, the burden is shifted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prove products unsafe before they can be withdrawn from the market.”

The authors reviewed nine herbal medicines that have the greatest impact on perioperative patient care: echinacea, ephedra, garlic, Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, kava, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort, and valerian. These nine pills represent 50% of the herbal medicines sold in the United States.

The same authors published a paper entitled “Herbal Medicines and Perioperative Care.” (JAMA 2001; 286:208). The following table is reproduced from that journal article, and describes relevant effects, perioperative concerns, and recommendations for eight of the most common herbal medicines:

Echinacea
Boosts immunity. Allergic reactions, impairs immune suppressive drugs, can cause 
immune suppression when taken long-term, could impair wound 
healing. Discontinue as far in advance as possible, especially for transplant patients or those with liver dysfunction.

Ephedra (ma huang) Increases heart rate, increases blood pressure. Risk of heart attack, arrhythmias, stroke, interaction with other drugs, kidney stones. Discontinue at least 24 hours before surgery.

Garlic (ajo)
Prevents clotting. Risk of bleeding, especially when combined with other drugs that inhibit clotting. Discontinue at least 7 days before surgery.

Ginko (duck foot, maidenhair, silver apricot). Prevents clotting. Risk of bleeding, especially when combined with other drugs that inhibit clotting. Discontinue at least 36 hours before surgery.

Ginseng
Lowers blood glucose, inhibits clotting. Lowers blood-sugar levels. Increases risk of bleeding. Interferes with warfarin (an anti-clotting drug). Discontinue at least seven days before surgery.

Kava (kawa, awa, intoxicating pepper). Sedates, decreases anxiety. May increase sedative effects of anesthesia. Risks of addiction, tolerance and withdrawal unknown. Discontinue at least 24 hours before surgery.

St. John’s wort (amber, goatweed, Hypericum, klamatheweed). Inhibits re-uptake of neuro-transmitters (similar to Prozac). Alters metabolisms of other drugs such as cyclosporin (for transplant patients), warfarin, steroids, protease inhibitors (vs HIV). May interfere with many other drug.s Discontinue at least five days before surgery.

Valerian
Sedates Could increase effects of sedatives. Long-term use could increase the amount of anesthesia needed. Withdrawal symptoms resemble Valium addiction If possible, taper dose weeks before surgery. If not, continue use until surgery. Treat withdrawal symptoms with benzodiazepines.

In their chapter in Miller’s Anesthesia, Ang-Lee, Yuan, and Moss recommend that, “In general, herbal medicines should be discontinued preoperatively. When pharmacokinetic data for the active constituents in an herbal medication are available, the timeframe for preoperative discontinuation can be tailored. For other herbal medicines, 2 weeks is recommended. However, in clinical practice because many patients require nonelective surgery, are not evaluated until the day of surgery, or are noncompliant with instructions to discontinue herbal medications preoperatively, they may take herbal medicines until the day of surgery. In this situation, anesthesia can usually proceed safely at the discretion of the anesthesiologist, who should be familiar with commonly used herbal medicines to avoid or recognize and treat complications that may arise.”

The American Society of Anesthesiologists have no official standards or guidelines on the preoperative use of herbal medications. Public and professional educational information released by the American Society of Anesthesiologists suggest that herbals be discontinued at least 2 to 3 weeks before surgery.

To return to our original question, what do you do when your otherwise healthy 50-year-old female patient has been taking gingko, kava, and ginseng up to two days prior to her ACL reconstruction surgery? Gingko can cause increased bleeding, kava can cause increased sedation, and ginseng can cause decreased blood sugars and increased bleeding. You discuss the predicament with the patient’s surgeon. He’s not concerned that a possible increased risk of bleeding will affect this knee surgery. You decide the increased level of sedation and the possible decreased blood sugar risks are not prohibitive. (If you were worried, you could cut back slightly on the amount of central nervous system depressant drugs you utilize, and also run a 5% dextrose solution in the patient’s IV.)

An alternative choice would be to cancel the surgery for 2 weeks while the patient remains herb-free. The surgeon asks you, “Is there any data that postponing the surgery for two weeks will decrease the complication rate?”

You answer honestly and say, “There is no data. The American Society of Anesthesiologists suggests that herbals be discontinued at least 2 to 3 weeks before surgery.”

The surgeon says, “I want to do the case tomorrow. There’s no data compelling me to delay for two weeks. I accept whatever increased bleeding risk there may be. I’ve never had a patient have a bleeding complication from a knee surgery.”

You proceed with the surgery the next day. The patient does well, and has no complications.

Surveys estimate that:
a) 22% to 32% of patients undergoing surgery use herbal medications (Tsen LC, et al: Alternative medicine use in presurgical patients. Anesthesiology 2000; 93:148);
b) 90% of anesthesiologists do not routinely ask about herbal medicine use (McKenzie AG: Current management of patients taking herbal medicines: A survey of anaesthetic practice in the UK. Eur J Anaesthesiol 2005; 22:597); and
c) more than 70% of patients are not forthcoming about their herbal medicine use during routine preoperative assessment (Kaye AD, et al: Herbal medications: Current trends in anesthesiology practice—a hospital survey. J Clin Anesth 2000; 12:468).

The frequent use of herbal medicines in perioperative patients is real. How big a problem is it? Nobody knows. How frequently does one of your patients have an unexpected problem of increased bleeding, increased sedation, decreased blood sugar, unexpected cardiac arrhythmia or angina, or decreased immune function?

For an ACL reconstruction in a healthy patient, gingko, kava, and ginseng may pose little risk. For a craniotomy on a 70-year-old with coronary artery disease and diabetes, gingko, kava, and ginseng bay pose an increased risk, and warrant postponing the surgery for 2 weeks after holding the herbal medicines.

My advice is to take a careful history of herb medicine use from your patients, know (or look it up if you don’t remember) the potential side effects of each herbal medicine, and then on a case-by-case basis decide if it really matters if the surgery should be cancelled for 2 weeks.

That’s what doctors do. That’s what anesthesia consultants do.

 

The most popular posts for laypeople on The Anesthesia Consultant include:

How Long Will It Take To Wake Up From General Anesthesia?

Why Did Take Me So Long To Wake From General Anesthesia?

Will I Have a Breathing Tube During Anesthesia?

What Are the Common Anesthesia Medications?

How Safe is Anesthesia in the 21st Century?

Will I Be Nauseated After General Anesthesia?

What Are the Anesthesia Risks For Children?

 

The most popular posts for anesthesia professionals on The Anesthesia Consultant  include:

10 Trends for the Future of Anesthesia

Should You Cancel Anesthesia for a Potassium Level of 3.6?

12 Important Things to Know as You Near the End of Your Anesthesia Training

Should You Cancel Surgery For a Blood Pressure = 178/108?

Advice For Passing the Anesthesia Oral Board Exams

What Personal Characteristics are Necessary to Become a Successful Anesthesiologist?

 

 

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*
*
*

Published in September 2017:  The second edition of THE DOCTOR AND MR. DYLAN, Dr. Novak’s debut novel, a medical-legal mystery which blends the science and practice of anesthesiology with unforgettable characters, a page-turning plot, and the legacy of Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan.

KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut thriller, tragedies strike an anesthesiologist as he tries to start a new life with his son.

Dr. Nico Antone, an anesthesiologist at Stanford University, is married to Alexandra, a high-powered real estate agent obsessed with money. Their son, Johnny, an 11th-grader with immense potential, struggles to get the grades he’ll need to attend an Ivy League college. After a screaming match with Alexandra, Nico moves himself and Johnny from Palo Alto, California, to his frozen childhood home of Hibbing, Minnesota. The move should help Johnny improve his grades and thus seem more attractive to universities, but Nico loves the freedom from his wife, too. Hibbing also happens to be the hometown of music icon Bob Dylan. Joining the hospital staff, Nico runs afoul of a grouchy nurse anesthetist calling himself Bobby Dylan, who plays Dylan songs twice a week in a bar called Heaven’s Door. As Nico and Johnny settle in, their lives turn around; they even start dating the gorgeous mother/daughter pair of Lena and Echo Johnson. However, when Johnny accidentally impregnates Echo, the lives of the Hibbing transplants start to implode. In true page-turner fashion, first-time novelist Novak gets started by killing soulless Alexandra, which accelerates the downfall of his underdog protagonist now accused of murder. Dialogue is pitch-perfect, and the insults hurled between Nico and his wife are as hilarious as they are hurtful: “Are you my husband, Nico? Or my dependent?” The author’s medical expertise proves central to the plot, and there are a few grisly moments, as when “dark blood percolated” from a patient’s nostrils “like coffee grounds.” Bob Dylan details add quirkiness to what might otherwise be a chilly revenge tale; we’re told, for instance, that Dylan taught “every singer with a less-than-perfect voice…how to sneer and twist off syllables.” Courtroom scenes toward the end crackle with energy, though one scene involving a snowmobile ties up a certain plot thread too neatly. By the end, Nico has rolled with a great many punches.

Nuanced characterization and crafty details help this debut soar.

Click on the image below to reach the Amazon link to The Doctor and Mr. Dylan: