February 07, 2010

Pre-op "clearance"

Physicians often receive requests from surgeons for a pre-op physical to "clear the patient for surgery."

What this "clearance" entails is not entirely clear.

Surgeons are worried that an unknown medical problem will rear its ugly head during the surgery and bite them in the butt... or the anesthesiologist will call off the surgery because of blood pressure concerns.


Consults are often made to a cardiologist with the intent of doing a pre-op EKG/Echo + stress test to determine if the patient is fit for surgery at the surgeon's behest.  What is important to understand is that another physician is often the one responsible for keeping the patient alive during the surgery and it is this person, who is most interested in the pre-operative assessment.

Unfortunately, the anesthesiologist often just turns out to be the doctor who happens to be in the OR on that particular day and has not established any sort of relationship with the patient beyond their initial bedside assessment in the waiting room.

In the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, two anasthesiologists tackle this issue and give some general advice for pre-op consults.

Consults that provide pertinent quantitative data about the patient are helpful—eg, the heart rate at which ischemia was exhibited during stress testing and the degree of ischemia.

Anesthesiologists do not need assistance with managing intravenous drugs (with the exception of unusual agents), but they can use specific guidance on managing oral medications pre- and postoperatively to best achieve optimization and steady-state concentrations.

Pertinent recent information (< 5 years old) from the nonanesthesiology literature should be provided.

Medical consultants should arrange for follow-up care for patients with active conditions not addressed by the surgery.

Absolute recommendations should be avoided in a consult: the surgical team may have good reason not to follow them, and legal repercussions could ensue. The words “consider” or “strongly consider” usually suffice, except where there is an absolute standard of care.

Specific questions to answer include such things like assessment of cardiac function (hx of angina, last echo results, exercise tolerance,) successful blood pressure and diabetic regimens, etc.



Giving Anaesthesiologists What They Want: How to Write a Useful Preoperative Consult.  CCJM 11/2009


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