August 24th, 2009
09:30 PM ET

Excerpts: Before the Scalpel by Dr. Panchali Dhar

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/24/dhar.jpg width=292 height=320]

Dr. Panchali Dhar
Before the Scalpel

Program note: Tonight, Dr. Panchali Dhar  will join us on AC360° at 10pm ET to discuss the Michael Jackson death investigation.  Dr. Dhar is an assistsant professor of clinical anesthesiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Editor's note: Excerpted from Before the Scalpel, What Everyone Should Know About Anesthesia by Dr. Panchali Dhar. With permission of the publisher, Tell Me Press, Inc.


More than seventy million Americans undergo surgical procedures every year. By age fifty, the average person has already had at least three surgeries requiring anesthesia.

Don’t believe me? Think about it—even if you haven’t stepped foot in a hospital since you were born, you might have had your wisdom teeth removed by a dentist, a pesky mole whisked away by a dermatologist, or a broken arm set by a surgeon.

When a scalpel is involved, some form of anesthesia will be used. Anesthesia is also a part of diagnostic medical procedures that don’t involve an incision. Anesthesia makes people comfortable while undergoing surgery and diagnostic procedures.

It is important to understand the anesthetic process; otherwise, you may find yourself in the backseat of your medical care. My goal is to empower you to sit in the front seat of your care. We have all heard stories of things going catastrophically wrong during or after the time of surgical procedures—such as what occurred to author Olivia Goldsmith and to Donda West, the mother of musician Kanye West. Both women died, and the circumstances surrounding their deaths raised questions in our minds about the safety of surgery and anesthesia. These cases encourage us to learn more about the many factors that affect our medical care.

Then there are those frightening stories of people who were awake and aware during an operation—when their doctors believed they were unconscious. These cases are few and far between, but they certainly make us think about something awful happening to us or someone we love.

Like most people, you probably have many questions about anesthesia. Everyone knows what the surgeon does, but what about the anesthesia providers? Who are they? What do they do after putting you to sleep or sedating you? How vital is their work?

The public perception of anesthesiologists is of doctors who do something really important, but the details of their work are usually vague. The word “anesthesia” evokes both a sense of comfort (as you are relieved to know you won’t feel pain during surgery) and of fear (as you worry about the possibility that something can go wrong). Where can you learn to empower yourself and ask the right questions?

The answers are in this book. Before the Scalpel: What Everyone Should Know about Anesthesia is designed to help you, your friends, and your loved ones learn about anesthetic options and make more educated decisions. It will help you understand what anesthetic approaches are available today and which one is right for you.

After all, there is no cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all anesthetic that can be applied to everyone. Your medical history, body shape and size, physical health, and emotional needs are factors that must be taken into account when selecting a type of anesthetic.

Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Joanne P.

    I find it interesting that one does not really know the credentials of the anesthesiologist that administers the drugs prior to surgery. After many surgeries I can attest to the fact that a member of the team does indeed prepare a medical workup but that person is not the one that meets you in the operating room. It seems that there is a consumer issue here. Should we examine the credentials of the one that has our life in his/her hands during surgery?

    August 25, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  2. Alexandra Morris

    This comment very helpful and I'm about to order the book.

    Thank you.

    August 25, 2009 at 1:43 am |
  3. Scott

    Dr Panchali Dhar stated that Dr Murray was " not trained or a specialist in a certain field." How does she know this to be fact? Does she personally know him? Has she reviewed all of his CME (continuing medical education) to know that he was not trained. I was a pharmacy technician and know for a fact that Internal Medicine doctors order this drug and so do Cardiologists especially if they are in the ICCU (Intensive Coronary care unit) and on the ventilator. Nurses in the ICCU/CCU administer the diprivan, no doctor has to be present. My spouse is an Internal Medicine physician and has never personally administered propofol. He has ordered it for his patients and the nurse administers. I am not trying to defend Dr Murray. Propofol should not be used out of the hospital setting where there is no ventilator so assist with breathing.

    August 25, 2009 at 12:04 am |
  4. john o snoberger

    I think ac360 is keeping america great!!!

    August 24, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  5. Andrea Bergman

    AC: You're sooooo smart, I love you!

    August 24, 2009 at 10:15 pm |