Anesthesia Services at Holyoke Medical Center

Programs & Services

Anesthesia Services at Holyoke Medical Center

Prior to coming to Holyoke Medical Center, any patient expecting to undergo anesthesia should have an understanding of what’s involved in the process. This brief summary is aimed at helping you learn more about anesthesia

Please note: Before you undergo any medical procedure, be sure to talk to your health-care-provider. They have a wealth of information that they can share with you. This website information is not a substitute for the advice of a qualified health-care provider.

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a vital part of modern medicine. It provides for patients to be put into a painless state, which is brought about by various drugs (anesthetics). It is used during many medical procedures, such as surgery and childbirth.

There are three principal types of anesthesia:

  • general-affects the entire body
  • regional-affects a particular section of the body, such as a leg or an arm
  • monitored anesthesia care- the anesthesiologist will provide you with sedation during the procedure, and the surgeon will administer local anesthesia specifically in the area where he or she is operating.

**Further description on each type of anesthesia is included in a separate section below.

Anesthesia is administered by either physician anesthesiologists or certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) working under the supervision of the anesthesiologist.

There are risks involved in virtually any medical procedure, and anesthesia is no exception. Fortunately though, for most healthy people, complications are rare.

Before your surgery occurs, staff will want to become acquainted with you and obtain any needed medical information. This could include:

Special tests - Your health-care provider may order lab tests, X-rays or other screenings for you.

A pre-op interview - Before your surgery, you’ll meet with a pre-op testing nurse and an Anesthesia Department member to discuss anesthesia. The anesthesiologist’s job is to recommend a type of anesthetic which is safe for you, given your medical history.

Be prepared to talk about:

- any chronic medical conditions you might have, such as heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, etc.

- prescription and over-the-counter medications; herbal, vitamin and mineral supplements; or any other remedies you use

- any allergic reactions you may have to medicines, latex (such as that used in gloves}, etc.

- your use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs. (What you say in a medical interview is confidential— it’s vital that you are honest about your habits, for your own safety when you undergo a medical procedure.)

If you are healthy you may not be required to come in for a pre-operative interview. Most of the information may be obtained over the phone. If that is the case, your anesthesiologist will meet with you on the day of your surgery.

Follow directions exactly before and on the day of your surgery.

taking any necessary medications. It’s extremely important for you to follow these instructions carefully and exactly.

After your procedure:

You will be moved to a recovery area while the anesthesia wears off. You may be given medications to help you regain consciousness. Your hearing may return before you can open your eyes or talk. Your vital signs will be checked regularly to monitor your recovery.

  • You may have some side effects from the anesthetics:
  • local or regional—numbness, tingling, nausea, backache or headache
  • general—nausea, thirst, shivering, gas, temporary memory lapses, or a sore throat or jaw.

    Be sure to tell your nurses if you are having any difficulty. Like everyone else at Holyoke Medical Center, they are there to help you.

  • You’ll be released from the recovery area when your anesthesia specialist is sure it is safe for you to go. Follow these precautions for at least 24 hours if you’re going home:
  • Don’t drive, operate machinery or make important decisions. Your coordination and judgment won’t be at their best.
  • Don’t smoke or take any medications, supplements or other remedies without discussing it with your health-care provider.
  • Don’t drink alcohol for 24 hours after surgery or if you are still taking narcotic pain medications. The alcohol can negatively interact with the anesthetics still in your body.
  • Have someone stay with you.
  • Go easy! You need time to fully recover from your surgery.

Make sure to discuss any questions or concerns with your health-care provider or anesthesia specialist.

**As stated above there are different types of anesthesia:

Regional and local anesthesia

Regional and local anesthesia numb only part of the body. They may be used for simpler procedures, and they involve few risks. Here is what usually happens:

There are four types of regional anesthesia which can be used:

Intravenous regional anesthesia

This is also called a Bier block. With this form of anesthesia, a tourniquet is wrapped around a limb to briefly stop blood flow. An anesthetic is injected. After surgery, the tourniquet is removed—and blood flow and feeling return. This may be used for certain types of hand surgery.

The anesthetic is injected near a cluster of nerves, numbing an entire limb.


The anesthetic is injected into the space just outside the covering of the spinal cord. This blocks nerve signals from the lower half of the body. But, you may still be able to move. An epidural is often used during childbirth.

An epidural may be used as part of the general anesthetic. When used in this capacity, it will reduce the amount of general anesthesia and provide good pain relief after the surgery. The epidural may remain there for several days and a medication will be administered through it. You will have the option to self administer for pain if necessary.


The anesthetic is injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal cord. This may be used to numb the lower half of the body.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is used for many types of surgery. Here’s what usually happens:

You may be given medications to help you relax or sleep. Anesthetics will be administered by the anesthesia specialist, using one or both of these methods:

  • intravenous—anesthetic drugs are injected through a thin tube placed in a vein in your arm or hand. This is the usual method for getting people asleep.
  • inhalation—you breathe in anesthetic gas through a face mask or through a breathing tube that is placed after you are asleep.

As anesthetics travel to your brain, you will start to feel numb. Sounds may seem louder. You may feel dizzy and drowsy, but you will lose consciousness quickly. Your body functions will slow down, including your breathing.

The anesthesia specialist:

  • will monitor your heartbeat and other vital signs
  • may use a ventilator to help you breathe.

For further information, call Holyoke Medical Center’s pre-op testing nurse at 534-2505.

Important Information about Smoking Cessation

If you are a smoker you are at a higher risk of complications from anesthesia. This is slightly dependent upon how long you have been smoking, the amount you smoke, any other underlying medical problems and the type of surgery being performed.

Known complications which may arise are decreased oxygen levels, airway irritability, wheezing and prolonged assistance on the ventilator.

Quitting just prior to surgery may have some beneficial short term effects on the aesthetic. Smoking cessation has some long term health benefits.

Please consult with your medical doctor if you would like assistance with smoking cessation.

Also, for further information, the Massachusetts Department of Health (DPH) offers several excellent tips to help quit smoking by clicking “smoking cessation” at the following website: