Who is Giving Your Anesthesia During Surgery?

Who Is Giving Your Anesthesia

Anesthesia and Surgery Image
Anesthesia & Surgery. Photo: © Andrew Olney/Getty Images

Anesthesia is given by a wide range of medical practitioners for many different reasons. The training and experience level of anesthesia providers varies greatly, ranging from a four-year residency in anesthesia to training classes added to a dental school program.

While many people take great care in choosing their surgeon, they often neglect to choose their anesthesia provider, accepting whatever anesthesia provider is assigned to their procedure. Find out who might be giving your anesthesia and what level of training they have had in order to provide anesthesia.

Anesthesiologists: Physicians Who Provide Anesthesia

An anesthesiologist is a physician who, after completing four years of medical school, completed a four-year residency in anesthesia to earn the credential MDA. In addition to residency, board-certified anesthesiologists have passed a grueling 3-part written test and a 2-part oral examination on the practice of anesthesiology.

Anesthesiologists may elect to supervise the work of other types of anesthesia providers, including nurse anesthetists (CRNA) and anesthesiologist assistances (AA).

Anesthesiologists primarily function in the operating room and post-anesthesia care unit, but some elect to practice in the area of chronic pain management.

Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs): Nurses Who Provide Anesthesia

A CRNA is a registered nurse who typically has a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field, and then obtains a master's degree in the administration of anesthesia. Most nurse anesthetists, also known as a CRNA or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, have practiced in a critical care setting as a nurse for years prior to furthering their education

In some states, nurse anesthetists work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. In others, CRNAs practice independently. CRNAs are not permitted to supervise other anesthesia providers, such as anesthesia assistants.

Currently, there are approximately 37,000 CRNAs that provide the majority of hands-on anesthesia care and practice in all 50 states.

Anesthesiologist Assistants: What Is an Anesthesia Assistant?

An anesthesiologist’s assistant (AA) is a trained professional who has obtained a bachelor’s degree in a health or science field, then completed a master’s level program in the administration of anesthesia.

Anesthesiologist assistants must be supervised by an anesthesiologist, and they may not practice independently.

There are currently less than 1,000 licensed AAs in the United States.

Dentists and Oral Surgeons: Providers of Anesthesia For Dental Procedures

Dentists and oral surgeons can obtain education on the administration of anesthesia in addition to their general dental education. For very invasive dental procedures, such as the removal of wisdom teeth, sedation is recommended due to the painful nature of the surgery and the force that is required to remove teeth.

While dental practitioners have less training in the administration of anesthesia than full-time providers, studies have shown that office-based dental anesthesia is as safe as traditional surgical anesthesia (1 death in 350,000 due to anesthesia administration).


Patient Education FAQ, American Society of Anesthesiologists 


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