Whether you’re returning for a familiar procedure or undergoing anesthesia for the first time, be sure to have a handle on the following queries.

1. Am I at risk for a medication error during my anesthetic and surgery?

Medication errors during anesthesia and surgery often reflect the administration of the wrong dose, wrong drug, or wrong time. Similar appearing drug ampoules or labels, and the occasional need for rapid decision making in the high-stress environment of the operating room may contribute to the risk of medication errors. To reduce the likelihood of medication errors, consider: standardization, technology, pharmacy/prefilled/premixed and culture. Ask about steps that will be taken to minimize the risk of medication error during your anesthetic and surgery.

2. Am I at risk for a flash fire around my face during my anesthetic and surgery?

A flash fire is a risk when the surgery is above your shoulders, you are breathing greater than 30 percent oxygen and a heat source (cautery) is used by the surgeon. The risk of a flash fire is negated when you are breathing less than 30 percent oxygen. It’s recommended that every patient’s need for supplemental oxygen be assessed before surgery. If greater than 30 percent oxygen is needed for adequate oxygenation, your airway should be secured with a device that prevents escape of oxygen into the operative field. Ask if you are at risk for a flash fire and, if so, how will your need for supplemental oxygen be addressed?

3. Will I receive drugs during my anesthetic and surgery that may cause muscle weakness when I wake up?

Many operations require drugs to relax your muscles to facilitate surgery. All patients receiving muscle relaxants during their surgery ought to be monitored with a device (peripheral nerve stimulator) to detect lingering effects of these drugs in the early postoperative period. Ask if you will receive muscle relaxants during your surgery, and how the effects of these drugs will be monitored.

4. Will I receive drugs during and after my anesthetic and surgery that may depress my breathing?

Drugs to provide pain relief, most often opioids such as morphine, may also depress your breathing. To minimize the risk of potential progressive and irreversible depression of breathing, we recommend routine pulse oximetry monitoring of all hospitalized patients receiving opioids for postoperative pain management. Ask if you will receive opioids for pain management and, if so, how your breathing will be monitored.