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Science
CASE NOTES
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Tuesday 21:00-21:30
Repeat Wednesday 16:30
Dr Mark Porter gives listeners the low-down on what the medical profession does and doesn't know. Each week an expert in the studio tackles a particular topic and there are reports from around the UK on the health of the nation - and the NHS.
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LISTEN AGAINListen 30 min
Listen to 27 September
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DR MARK PORTER
Dr Mark Porter
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Tuesday 27 September 2005
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Full programme transcript >>

Anaesthesia

One third of the population mistakenly believes that an anaesthetist is not a doctor, but these highly trained specialists assess you before a major operation, keep you alive during surgery and monitor your recovery afterwards.

In this episode of Case Notes, Dr Mark Porter trails Dr David Sutton, a consultant anaesthetist at the Wessex Nuffield Hospital in Southampton for a day to discover exactly what the job involves.

And Mark explores the hi-tech monitoring equipment and latest drugs that help the anaesthetists look after their patients.

Types of anaesthesia

There are three types of anaesthetic that an anaesthetist administers: 

  • Local anaesthetic, which numbs a small part of the body;
  • Regional anaesthetics, such as epidurals or spinal anaesthetics, which are used for operations on deep or large areas of the body;
  • General anaesthetic, which is a controlled state of unconsciousness.
The anaesthetist will meet the patient before surgery to work out a pain relief plan for the operation and immediate recovery.

Five fears about anaesthetic

Patients expecting to receive an anaesthetic often express the following five fears: 

  • That the anaesthetic won't put them to sleep
  • That they won't wake up after the operation
  • That they'll wake up during the procedure
  • That they'll experience pain following the operation
  • That they'll experience nausea following the operation
As Dr Sutton explains, advances in anaesthesia mean that there is little foundation for these concerns.

Sedation in Intensive Care

As well as playing a vital role in surgery, anaesthetists are also involved in emergency medicine and in intensive care.

Patients in intensive care often need sedative drugs to relieve pain and stress while they recover from their conditions.

Trisha McNair visits the Intensive Care Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital in South Manchester where she finds out how advances in the drugs used means patients no longer have to be deeply sedated.
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