Anesthesia & You

Anesthesia & You

After the Surgery

PACU Recovery

At the end of surgery, the patient is taken to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU or Recovery Room). The PACU is a very busy place with nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other hospital staff going about their work. Patients generally spend anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours in the recovery room before being transferred to either a hospital room, the discharge lounge, or home.

Specialized critical care nurses closely monitor paitents after surgery in the PACU, where their blood pressure and temperature are frequently checked as well as continuous monitoring of their EKG and oxygen levels.

Postoperative Problems

There are a number of post-anesthesia problems that are treated in the PACU.

One of the most commonly encountered problems in the PACU is pain. Pain medicines are given to patients during their surgery, but sometimes more medicines are needed to make them comfortable. Occasionally, patients have been given a nerve block prior to their surgery. These cases usually require less pain medicine.

Another common problem encountered in the PACU is shivering. The type of anesthesia given during surgery seems to have no effect in the occurrence of this problem. It doesn't seem to matter whether the patient was given general anesthesia or regional anesthesia. A patient with either type of anesthesia can experience shivering. This problem is not unusual and can be treated by intravenous medication.

Nausea and vomiting is another potential problem in the postoperative period. This is sometimes associated with the site of surgery itself. Eye, ear, laparoscopic surgery, and pediatric eye surgery are more frequently associated with nausea and vomiting. Pain can also trigger nausea and vomiting. Patients with a history of motion sickness or those with a previous history of nausea and vomiting after surgery have a higher chance of experiencing this problem after surgery. The newer anesthetic agents used today are less likely to cause this problem than the anesthetics used in the past. The good news is that in patients who are at risk for this problem, antiemetics can be given during surgery in an effort to prevent this unpleasant postoperative complication. If patients still get sick despite this treatment, other medicines are available in the PACU.

There are other less commonly occurring problems, but most patients will have an uneventful surgical procedure and recovery in the PACU. The staff in the PACU is specifically trained to handle any of these types of problems that may arise immediately after your procedure.

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