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Whether you are a practicing anesthesiologist, practicing nurse anesthetist, anesthesiology resident physician, or student nurse anesthetist, the chances are you know more about anatomy, pharmacology, and physiology than how the equipment that allows you to safely and properly give an anesthetic works. A lot of us are medically or biologically minded, not mechanically or electrically minded. That’s one reason why we went into what we did instead of engineering. The workings of an anesthesia machine are not as interesting to us as the anatomy of a nerve block, how a drug works, or cardiac physiology.

The fact that anesthesia equipment isn’t as interesting to us as the other things mentioned is understandable, but it is also dangerous. We, like some other medical personnel, must be able to quickly and correctly diagnose patient problems, but we must also be able to quickly and correctly diagnose what is wrong with our equipment. No specialty is as tied to its equipment as anesthesia. Of course, radiologists couldn’t do much without x-ray machines, but they are usually not the ones who operate the machines, and besides, a patient won’t die if the x-ray machine stops. But if our anesthesia machine stops working correctly, the patient can suffer harm. Therefore, we should know as much as possible about how our machines and equipment work so we can troubleshoot them effectively when necessary.

One of the physicians who we trained under said that we would check out the anesthesia machine much more carefully in the morning if our lives (and not just the life of the patient) depended on it, much like an airline pilot’s life (and not just the lives of the passengers) depends on the proper functioning of his or her airplane. That is a true statement.

One of the things we have heard from the anesthesiology residents that we have trained over the years is that learning about anesthesia equipment is too difficult for someone who is not mechanically minded. The sources that exist to learn about how the tools of our trade work were impenetrable for some, so they simply ignored learning about anesthesia equipment. The goal of this book is stated in its title: to simplify the understanding of anesthesia equipment. That is not to say that we are not as serious about the subject as others; our goal with this book is to provide simple, basic information on how all the wonderful equipment that we and our patients depend on actually works.

The chapters of this book are arranged in such a way as to follow the path that medical gases take through the anesthesia machine, starting with sources of medical gases and ending at the scavenger system. After that we discuss other anesthesia equipment that you use every day, but you might not know how the equipment actually works to assist you in providing a safe anesthetic. It ...

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