Department of Anesthesiology

Anesthesiology is a medical specialty encompassing a broad range of medical and scientific activities. The clinical practice of anesthesiology includes:

  1. assessment of, consultation for and preparation of patients for anesthesia and surgery;
  2. provision of insensibility to pain during surgical, obstetric, therapeutic and diagnostic procedures;
  3. monitoring and restoration of physiologic homeostasis during the perioperative period, as well as homeostasis in the critically ill or seriously injured patient;
  4. diagnosis and treatment of painful syndromes; and
  5. clinical management and teaching of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The realm of scientific investigation in anesthesiology also spans a broad range. Scientific efforts at the cellular and molecular levels are directed to understanding the molecular mechanisms of anesthesia and analgesia. Clinical research in anesthesia includes broad epidemiological approaches to identifying indicators of outcome as well as prospective clinical studies examining new technologies, anesthetic agents and methods.

The Department of Anesthesiology presents the student with the opportunity to:

  1. acquire and apply pharmacologic knowledge related to anesthetic, narcotic, paralytic and sedative drugs and to drugs affecting the autonomic nervous system;
  2. understand and apply the basic principles of airway management and mechanical ventilation;
  3. understand and apply the principles of cardiopulmonary resuscitation;
  4. understand and apply the technical skills and anatomic and pharmacologic knowledge used in performing regional nerve blocks;
  5. learn and apply the fundamental principles of acute and chronic pain management; and
  6. learn and apply the basic principles of critical care medicine.

Anesthesiology bridges the gap between basic science and clinical medicine. It provides experience in the clinical evaluation and management of patients, and in applied physiology and pharmacology. The Department of Anesthesiology offers student experiences in the operating room, the intensive care unit, the pain clinic and the laboratory.

This clerkship introduces all of the basic aspects of anesthetic practice, including preoperative assessment, intraoperative anesthetic administration, placement and interpretation of invasive and noninvasive physiologic monitoring, airway management and regional anesthetic administration. Students taking this clerkship work one-on-one with attending anesthesiologists and are an integral part of the anesthetic care team. By the end of the clerkship, the student should be able to provide (under supervision) anesthesia for an uncomplicated surgical procedure. This rotation offers a unique opportunity for the student to work directly with attending physicians and to acquire fundamental skills (airway management, invasive monitoring, regional anesthesia) applicable to all aspects of acute medicine.

Students who have taken the anesthesia clerkship in the third year may elect to repeat this rotation in the fourth year. These students will be exposed to more complicated cases and techniques, and will be given increased responsibility for perioperative patient management. Students who have taken the clerkship in the third year also may elect to take an elective in the subspecialty areas of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology, Pediatric Anesthesiology, Obstetric Anesthesiology or Anesthesia for Neurosurgery. Visit Department of Anesthesiology Courses for more information. Students taking these electives will be exposed to surgical cases of increased complexity requiring specialized invasive monitoring and anesthetic techniques.

Four-week electives are also offered in surgical critical care and cardiothoracic critical care. In these electives, the student is an integral part of the intensive care team. Students learn techniques of mechanical ventilation, hemodynamic monitoring, resuscitation and vasoactive drug treatment while managing all aspects of patients assigned to their care.

The clerkship in pain management offers the student the opportunity to participate in comprehensive, multidisciplinary management of acute, chronic and cancer pain problems. Students will be expected to assist in the care of both inpatients and outpatients. Students will learn fundamental aspects of pain management, which should provide the knowledge with which to manage routine acute and cancer pain in their subsequent practice.

Special electives in basic science research as it applies to anesthesiology can be arranged with the principal investigators in the Department of Anesthesiology, in the Anesthesiology Research Unit and the Washington University Pain Center under the direction of Rob Gereau, PhD or the Division of Clinical and Translational Research under the direction of Evan Kharasch, MD, PhD.

These laboratories focus on various aspects of molecular neurobiology, including ion channel structure and function; G-protein molecular biology; molecular mechanisms of volatile anesthetic action; genetics of anesthetic responsiveness; and the molecular, cellular and genetic basis of acute and chronic pain. Arrangements for these special electives are made through the specific investigators: Walter A. Boyle III, MD; Zhou-Feng Chen, PhD; Alex S. Evers, MD; Narasimhan Gautam, PhD; Richard S. Hotchkiss, MD; Christopher J. Lingle, PhD; Joseph H. Steinbach, PhD; Michael Bruchas, PhD; Yu-Qing Cao, PhD; or Robert W. Gereau, PhD. In addition, opportunities exist for clinical research in the Clinical Research Division, under the direction of Evan Kharasch, MD. PhD.

For more information

Please visit the Department of Anesthesiology website for more information.