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Celebrating Physician Anesthesiologists Week 2021

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Photo was taken prior to COVID-19

This week is set aside to celebrate our anesthesiologists for the hard work they do behind the scenes. Anesthesiologists are the physicians responsible for providing anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other procedures. This entails ensuring patients fall into a deep sleep smoothly before surgery starts, stay unaware of the ongoing surgery, receive adequate pain management during surgery and ensuring the patient wakes up promptly and comfortably after surgery. Most patients at Texas Children’s Hospital receive general anesthesia as described above, but a small subset of patients – especially those under a year of age, presenting for surgery on the groin or lower extremity – may receive spinal anesthesia. Spinal anesthesia is an anesthetic that specifically numbs the lower part of the body. We also provide epidural anesthesia for pregnant women at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women® to control pain during labor and delivery.

Pediatric anesthesiologists are initially certified as general adult anesthesiologists and subsequently undergo additional training to specialize in the anesthetic management of children (newborn to 18 years of age). The pediatric patients we care for at Texas Children’s undergo surgeries ranging from simple surgery for lumps and bumps, circumcision, and inguinal hernia repair, to neonatal surgery for correction of congenital anomalies, spine fusion to correct spinal deformities and complex congenital heart surgery for a wide array of heart defects.

In the little time there is on the day of surgery from the time families arrive in the hospital to when surgery has to start, the anesthesiologist quickly establishes rapport with the family winning their trust and answering the many questions they have, and then establishes connection with the star of the day –  the patient!

The ability to quickly win the trust of the pediatric patient remains a skill that few anesthesiologists in other specialties have. At Texas Children’s, we also have the unique opportunity to care for adults with congenital diseases, including congenital heart diseases, and adults donating organs to their pediatric relatives. In addition, we care for pregnant women during labor and delivery or those whose fetuses are in dire need of a surgical intervention during the pregnancy in order to grant the fetus the best chance of survival after delivery.

The duties of the anesthesiologist during surgery include monitoring the patient’s vital signs to observe and detect the need for fluid, administration of blood and/or blood products or pain medicine, when needed. We are also responsible for the administration of antibiotics to prevent infection, and when needed or feasible, placement of special nerve blocks that ensure the patient has pain-free surgery and most importantly, wakes up comfortable after surgery.

Some of us are more visible outside the operating room as we round on patients daily on the pain service, a service that continues to evaluate and treat patients with surgery-related pain or chronic pain issues. We also work closely with our colleagues in the emergency room as well as the intensive care unit (ICU), where a subset of us who are board certified in critical care are part of the critical care team, managing critically ill children in the ICU.

At Texas Children’s, 91 anesthesiologists, all with additional training and certification in pediatric anesthesia, care for our patients. Several of these team members also have additional training in cardiac anesthesia, critical care medicine obstetric anesthesia, regional anesthesia and pain management. An additional subset are specifically trained only in obstetric anesthesia. We are an integral part of the quality improvement initiatives within the hospital, serve on numerous hospital-wide committees and make significant contributions to research and discovery that impact our patients.

Anesthesiologists are indeed a special breed of physicians silently carrying the responsibility of ensuring a safe anesthetic, mostly behind-the-scenes, but nonetheless, a very integral part of the surgical patient’s care team. Our work is performed in collaboration with our certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) colleagues, anesthesia technicians, respiratory therapists and a host of others that comprise our one amazing team.

We celebrate all anesthesiologists during this year’s Physician Anesthesiologists Week and congratulate them for a job well done each and every day! To learn more about anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine at Texas Children’s, click here.

External Author
Olutoyin Olutoye MD, M.Sc., FAAP