What is a Cardiovascular Anesthesiologist?

Cardiovascular anesthesiologists are physicians who provide patient care and monitoring during cardiothoracic and vascular surgery. This care includes:
• Meeting with patients prior to surgery to review their medical history, current health status, list of medications, allergies, and past surgeries.
• Determining which anesthesia technique(s) to use during and after surgery.
• Providing heart surgery—specific techniques, devices, and procedures, which can be quite different than those used in other types of surgery.
• Addressing heart surgery—specific problems that are not encountered in other types of surgery.
• Performing transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) while the patient is under general anesthesia.
• Administering specialized cardiac medications.
• Directing the cardiopulmonary bypass process when it is needed.

A Team Approach
During surgery, the cardiovascular anesthesiologist cares for the patient in the operating room by administering anesthetic and other types of medications, closely monitoring the patient’s vital signs, and making decisions about how to protect and regulate the patient’s organ systems. After surgery, the cardiovascular anesthesiologist monitors the patient’s recovery from anesthesia and follows the postoperative progress from the recovery room to the intensive care unit. Hospitals that specialize in cardiac, thoracic, or vascular surgery often have “heart” teams. The specialized teams consist of surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, perfusionists, operating room nurses, recovery room nurses, and intensive care unit nurses and staff.

Training
After earning a bachelor’s degree, anesthesiologists spend four years in medical school and another four years training to provide anesthesia during surgery. Those who specialize in cardiovascular anesthesiology often spend another 1 to 2 years learning and training in cardiac and/or vascular anesthesia.


Resources

Texas Heart Institute www.texasheartinstitute.com/HIC/Topics/FAQ/wicvanesth.cfm
Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists www.scahq.org/sca3/FAQ.shtml