Anesthesia evaluation


Anesthesia evaluation refers to the series of interviews, physical examinations, and laboratory tests that are generally used in North America and western Europe to assess the general fitness of patients scheduled for surgery and to determine the need for special precautions or additional testing. There is no universally accepted definition of anesthesia evaluation as of 2003; however, the Task Force on Preanesthesia Evaluation of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has tentatively defined it as "....the process of clinical assessment that precedes the delivery of anesthesia care for surgery and for non-surgical procedures." Anesthesia evaluation is usually discussed in the context of elective or scheduled surgical procedures rather than emergency surgery .

Anesthesia evaluation is a relatively recent development in preoperative patient care. Prior to the 1970s, anesthesiologists were often given only brief notes or outlines of the patient's history and physical examination written by the operating surgeon or the patient's internist. This approach became increasingly unsatisfactory as the practice of anesthesiology became more complex. In the last four decades, the introduction of new anesthetics and other medications, laser-assisted surgical procedures, increasingly sophisticated monitoring equipment, and new discoveries in molecular biochemistry and genetics have made the anesthesiologist's role more demanding. During the 1980s and 1990s, some departments of anesthesiology in large urban medical centers and major university teaching hospitals began to set up separate clinics for anesthesia evaluation in order to improve the assessment of patients before surgery.


Anesthesia evaluation has several different purposes. The information that is obtained during the evaluation may be used to:


There are several parts or stages in a typical anesthesia evaluation. The evaluation itself may be done in the hospital where the operation is scheduled, or in a separate facility attached to the hospital. The timing of the evaluation is affected by two major variables: the invasiveness of the operation to be performed and the patient's overall physical condition. An invasive operation or procedure is one that requires the surgeon to insert a needle, catheter, or instrument into the body or a part of the body. Surgical procedures are classified as high, medium, or low in invasiveness. Procedures that involve opening the chest, abdomen, or skull are usually considered highly invasive. Examples of less invasive procedures would include tooth extraction , most forms of cosmetic surgery, and operations on the hands and feet.

The patient's physical condition is classified according to the ASA's six-point system as follows:

As of 2003, the ASA recommends that patients with severe disease be interviewed and have their physical examination before the day of surgery. Patients in good health or with mild systemic disease who are scheduled for a highly invasive procedure should also be interviewed and examined before the day of surgery. Patients in categories P1 and P2 who are scheduled for low- or medium-invasive procedures may be evaluated on the day of surgery or before it.

Patient history and records

The first part of an anesthesia evaluation is the anesthesiologist's review of the patient's medical history and records. This review allows the anesthesiologist to evaluate the patient for risk factors that may increase the patient's sensitivity to the sedatives or other medications given before and during the operation; increase the danger of complications related to heart function and breathing; and increase the difficulty of treating such complications.

These risk factors may include:

Patient interview

The anesthesiologist is responsible for interviewing the patient during the anesthesia evaluation. The interview serves in part as additional verification of the patient's identity; cases have been reported in which patients have been scheduled for the wrong procedure because of administrative errors. The anesthesiologist will check the patient's name, date of birth, medical record number, and type or location of scheduled surgery for any inconsistencies. Although the anesthesiologist will ask for some of the same information that is included in the patient's written medical records, he or she may have additional questions. Moreover, it is not unusual for patients to recall significant events or details during the interview that were left out of the written records. The anesthesiologist will explain what will happen during the operation and give instructions about fasting, discontinuing medications, and other precautions that the patient should take before the procedure. The patient will have an opportunity to ask questions about choice of anesthetic and other concerns during the interview.

Physical examination

The physical examination will focus on three primary areas of concern: the heart and circulatory system; the respiratory system; and the patient's airway. Heart and lung function are evaluated because surgery under general anesthesia puts these organ systems under considerable stress. The usual tests performed to evaluate heart and lung fitness are an electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest x-ray (CXR). These tests may be omitted if the patient was tested within the previous six months and the results were normal. If the patient has an ECG and CXR as part of the anesthesia evaluation and the findings are abnormal, the doctor may order additional tests of heart and lung function. These may include stress or exercise tests; echocardiography ; angiography ; pulmonary function tests (PFTs); and a computed tomography (CT) scan of the lungs.

Assessment of the airway includes an examination of the patient's teeth, nasal passages, mouth, and throat to check for any signs of disease or structural abnormalities. Certain physical features, such as an abnormally shaped windpipe, prominent upper incisor teeth, an abnormally small mouth opening, a short or inflexible neck, a throat infection, large or swollen tonsils, and a protruding or receding chin can all increase the risk of airway problems during the operation. A commonly used classification scheme rates patients on a four-point scale, with Class I being the least likely to have airway problems under anesthesia and Class IV the most likely.

Laboratory tests

Laboratory tests are categorized as either routine, meaning that they are given to all patients as part of the anesthesia evaluation, or indicated, which means that the test is ordered for a specific reason for a particular patient. Routine preoperative laboratory tests include blood tests and urine tests. Blood samples are taken for white and red blood cell counts and coagulation studies; tests of kidney function, most commonly measurements of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine; and measurements of blood glucose and electrolyte levels. Urine samples are taken to evaluate the patient's nutritional status, to test for diabetes or the presence of a urinary tract infection, and to determine whether the patient is dehydrated. Some hospitals will accept blood and urine tests performed within six weeks of the operation if the results were within normal ranges. Some facilities also routinely test urine samples from women of childbearing age for pregnancy.

Indicated laboratory tests include platelet counts, certain blood chemistry measurements, and measurements of blood hemoglobin levels. These tests are usually performed for patients with blood or endocrine disorders; persons taking blood-thinning medications; persons who have been treated with some types of alternative therapy; and persons who are known to have kidney or liver disorders.


The anesthesiologist may consult other doctors as part of the anesthesia evaluation in order to obtain additional information about the patient's condition. Consultations are often necessary if the patient is very young or very old; is being treated for cancer; or has a rare disease or disorder.


Patients can prepare for an anesthesia evaluation by gathering information beforehand to give the hospital or clinic staff. This information includes such matters as insurance cards and documentation; a list of medications presently taken and their dosages; a list of previous operations or hospitalizations, if any; the names and telephone numbers of other physicians who have been consulted within the past two years; information about allergies to medications, if any; the name and telephone number of a designated family member or primary contact; and similar matters.

See also Anesthesiologist's role ; Preoperative care .



Catania, Robert M., MD. A Patient Guide to Surgery . 1999. Available for download without charge at .


American Society of Anesthesiologists Task Force on Preanesthesia Evaluation. "Practice Advisory for Preanesthesia Evaluation." Anesthesiology 96 (February 2002): 485–496.

Karim, A. and M. Esteve. "Specific Aspects of the Pre-Anesthetic Consultation in Patients with Cancer." [in French] Bulletin du Cancer 89 (June 2002): 612–618.

Larson, Merlin, MD. "Waters, Guedel, and the Pre-Anesthetic Evaluation." California Society of Anesthesiologists Bulletin 51 (January-March 2002): 69–75.

Lignau, W. and H. U. Strohmenger. "Responsibility of the Anaesthesiologist in the Preoperative Risk Evaluation." [in German] Der Anaesthesist 51 (September 2002): 704–715.

Michota, F. A. and F. D. Frost. "Perioperative Management of the Hospitalized Patient." Medical Clinics of North America 86 (July 2002): 731–748.

Tobias, J. D. "Anesthesia for Minimally Invasive Surgery in Children." Best Practice and Research: Clinical Anesthesiology 16 (March 2002): 115–130.


American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). 222 South Prospect Avenue, Park Ridge, IL 60068-4001. (847) 692-7050. .

American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). 520 N. Northwest Highway, Park Ridge, IL 60068-2573. (847) 825-5586. .

Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF). 4246 Colonial Park Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15227-2621. (412) 882-8040. .


American Society of Anesthesiologists. Guidelines for Patient Care in Anesthesiology . Approved by ASA House of Delegates on October 3, 1967; last amended, October 17, 2001 [cited February 20, 2003]. .

Hata, Tara, MD, Ellen J. Nickel, Pharm. D., Bradley Hinman, MD, and Douglas Morgan, RPh. Guidelines, Education, and Testing for Procedural Sedation and Analgesia. Iowa City, IA: University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, 2001.

Phillips, Chester, MD. "Pre-Anesthesia Evaluation and Data Capture." Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation Newsletter 16 (Summer, 2001) [cited February 16, 2003]. .

Rooke, G. Alec, MD, PhD, editor. Syllabus on Geriatric Anesthesiology . Park Ridge, IL: American Society of Anesthesiologists, 2001.

Rebecca Frey, Ph.D.

User Contributions:

miriam feldman
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 16, 2010 @ 10:10 am
I had brain surgery on Dec.9, and general endotracheal was used. Approximately 1 month after surgery, I had trouble breathing and was put on oxygen. Could this be a result of the anesthesia, and if so, is there any way
that I can improve the situation, so that I wouldn't need oxygen? Is this a temporary response?
I would very much appreciate a response to this query.
Miriam Feldman
Sarkis Baltayian
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 18, 2011 @ 4:16 pm
No, Miriam, it does not sound like anything related to the anesthetic. Your doctor or a pulmonary specialist might be able to investigate your situation more in depth and give you an answer.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 20, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
In 2003 my husband had lung surgery for a neglected abscess. He came out of anesthesia confused, paranoid & combative. Then came a myriad of diagnoses, all eventually eliminated. (POD?) He was hospitalized 7 weeks! In 2009 we prepared for his total right knee replacement 1st by discussing this problem with his surgeon. We then went to the hospital prior to surgery to get it into the record & to remind them of what happened there in that very hospital 6 years prior. We think all was ignored on 12/14/09 when he underwent the surgery. AGAIN he came out of the anesthesia absolutely frantic: confused, paranoid & combative. This time he was hospitalized 11 weeks! Pneumonia. Acute renal failure. Finally the diagnosis was Encephalopathy caused by anesthesia. Since the, we have researched POD. We believe he must get an anesthesia evaluation for future safety. I don't think he would survive another episode of if he had to undergo another surgical procedure. We live in southern California. Any suggestions?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jul 7, 2011 @ 1:13 pm
Carol, the same thing happened to me last Sept. Your post is the only other one I have seen in which this happened too. Have you found out what caused this to your husband?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 3, 2012 @ 3:15 pm
La agitación sicomotora del paciente en el post operatorio inmediato es un episodio relativamente poco frecuente y sus causas podrían ser atribuidas a personalidad previa proclive a problemas mentales, anestesia muy superficial, hipoxia, edema cerebral por exceso de fluidos intravenosos o por fenomenos de hipertensión endocraneana disparados en la inducc, hiponatremia, o por algunos farmacos disociativos sin el uso de tranquilizantes previos, el uso de algunos halogenados y un largo etcetera. Es posible que un episodio desagradable deje secuelas siquicas en el paciente por un tiempo prolongado dificil de predecir pero sujetoa tratamiento y mejoria generalmente.Es mas frecuente en ancianos y en menores de edad.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 28, 2014 @ 2:02 am
very useful informaiton and student can take valuable ideas before preparing a petient for a surgery.

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: