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Anesthesiology (spelled anaesthesiology in UK English), called anaesthetics in UK English according to some sources[1] but not according to others,[2] is the medical speciality concerned with anesthesia (loss of sensation) and anesthetics (substances that cause this loss). Anesthesia is total or partial loss of sensation with or without the loss of consciousness.[3] The American Society of Anesthesiologists defines anesthesiology as "the practice of medicine dedicated to the relief of pain and total care of the surgical patient before, during and after surgery."[4]

Focus Anesthesia, perioperative medicine
Specialist Anesthesiologist/anaesthetist

These terms can also be used as synonyms, but in different ways in different countries. In North America, the medical study and application of anesthetics is called anesthesiology,[5] and the anesthetics can be administered by a medical doctor trained in the field (called an anesthesiologist), a certified registered nurse anesthetist (an advanced practice nurse), or an anesthesiologist assistant (a non-physician provider who practices anesthesia under the direction of an anesthesiologist). In North America, the term anesthesia can also be used to refer to the medication that causes anesthesia, in other words as a synonym of "anesthetics".[6] Though the word anesthetist is a general term that can be used in North America for any practitioner providing anesthesia services, it is colloquially generally used to refer to a certified registered nurse anesthetist, whereas the term "anesthesiologist" usually refers to a medical doctor. By contrast, in the United Kingdom and other countries following the British tradition, both the medical specialty and the treatment delivered can be referred to as anaesthesia or anaesthetics, but these terms can also be used, respectively, to refer to the loss of sensation and the substances that produce it.[7] A physician who administers anesthetics is termed an anaesthetist.

Over the past 100 years, the study and administration of anesthesia has become more complex. Historically anesthesia providers were almost solely utilized during surgery to administer general anesthesia in which a person is placed in a pharmacologic coma. This is performed to permit surgery without the individual responding to pain (analgesia) during surgery or remembering (amnesia) the surgery.

However, thanks to the advances is medicine, many procedures or diagnostic tests do not require "general anesthesia" and can be performed using various forms of sedation or regional anesthesia, which can be performed to induce analgesia in a region of the body. For example, epidural administration of a local anesthetic is commonly performed on the mother during childbirth to reduce labor pain while permitting the mother to be awake and active in labor & delivery.

In the United States, anesthesiologists may also perform non-surgical pain management (termed pain medicine) and provide care for patients in intensive care units (termed critical care medicine). Certified registered nurse anesthetists may also perform non-surgical pain management.



In the United States, anesthesiologists attend four years of medical school to earn either a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and then follow it with four years of residency. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists or CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses with additional post-graduate training in anesthesia. By 2025, all CRNA programs will require a doctorate degree. In the United States, the most common anesthesia care model is where an anesthesiologist and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist work as a team (termed medical direction or medical supervision). In 17 states, CRNAs can practice without the supervision of a physician (though physician does not dictate it be an anesthesiologist). [8]


Effective practice of anesthesiology requires several areas of knowledge by the practitioner, some of which are:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ anaesthetics in Collins English Dictionary
  2. ^ anaesthesiology in Oxford Living Dictionaries
  3. ^ anesthesia in American Heritage Dictionary
  4. ^ "What is Anesthesiology". Retrieved 5 December 2016. 
  5. ^ American Heritage Dictionary
  6. ^ anesthesia in the American Heritage Dictionary
  7. ^ anaesthetic in Collins English Dictionary
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2016-06-08.