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What Is an Anesthesia Machine?

A patient being given inhalational anaesthesia.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 24 August 2014
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An anesthesia machine is a piece of medical equipment used in the administration of anesthesia. The machine delivers calibrated mixtures of anesthesia gases and oxygen to the patient to sustain anesthesia, while also providing patient monitoring capabilities to allow the anesthesiologist or technician caring for the patient to make adjustments as necessary during the procedure. The cost of the equipment varies depending on the available features and the manufacturer, but they tend to be quite expensive as they are delicate and critical devices for the operating room setting.

The anesthesia machine can hook up to wall supplies of oxygen and other gases, as well as reserve cylinders kept for emergencies. When an anesthesiologist develops an anesthesia plan after meeting with the patient and the surgeon, the parameters of the plan are entered into the machine and the anesthesiologist makes the appropriate connections to supply the machine with the needed gases. The anesthesia machine is used during induction and throughout the procedure to provide the patient with oxygen and the gas that will help keep the patient under a stable state of anesthesia.

Monitoring devices to check pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and other vital signs can also be incorporated into the machine. These features provide real time feedback about how the patient is responding to the surgery. If the patient develops a problem, the vital signs will often provide early warning and allow the surgical team to take steps to address the issue.

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A number of failsafes are built into anesthesia machines to prevent potential surgical emergencies. The devices are usually designed to display an error if no oxygen is being delivered or if there is not enough oxygen. Anesthesia machines are also designed to minimize the release of gases into the operating room for provider and patient safety, and include a waste capturing system to scavenge exhaled gases. The anesthesia machine is typically mounted on wheels to allow it to be repositioned in the operating room as needed.

Like all medical equipment, an anesthesia machine works best when it is properly maintained and serviced. It is important to confirm the calibration on the machine to avoid accidents caused by improper gas mixtures, and the device must also be kept clean to reduce the risk of passing pathogens between patients. Anesthesiologists regularly check all their equipment before a surgery begins and many manufacturers provide support contracts for maintenance and repair of their devices.

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