It isn’t often, when I’m perusing a health-related book, that I run across a quote that makes me smile. But here’s one, and it’s apropos to the topic …
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
– Ernest Hemingway
Despite the chuckle-worthy quotation, before the scalpel: what everyone should know about anesthesia by Panchali Dhar, M.D., (Tell Me Press, 2009) tackles its serious topic with a thorough approach that makes the subject accessible. When you consider that most people have at least three encounters with anesthesia before the age of 50, there’s something for everyone here.
Dhar, an anesthesiologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College, begins with a basic explanation of what an anesthesiologist is (and there are different types), their tools, and how they work. She then dives into “what to expect,” including descriptions of the operating room, recovery and pain relief.
Next, Dhar covers “special topics” such as cosmetic surgery, the impact of obesity on anesthesia, childbirth, anesthesia in infants and children, dental anesthesia, nausea and alternative forms of anesthesia and pain relief. Each chapter ends with a set of questions to ask your doctor and/or anesthesiologist – plus room to write in the answers!
I’m not planning any surgery or other procedure requiring anesthesia in the near future, but I was still drawn in by this book, which is broken up into easy-to-tackle sections and organized to help you get to just the topic you need. So now, when my husband goes in for minor surgery in the next few months I’ll know to ask whether he’ll be having twilight sleep or general anesthesia, how long he’s supposed to fast before the procedure, and whether the anesthesiologist has all the pertinent medical test results.
Here’s a practical book that offers enough information to be useful and comforting, but not so much that it’s off-putting. The section on children is especially useful, because it helps parents understand what to expect and why certain aspects of anesthesia are different for kids (i.e. infants have lower blood pressure, and their kidneys aren’t able to clear drugs from the body as quickly). It’ll definitely be a staple on my book shelf, and I highly recommend it for anyone going under the knife.