Why do anesthesiologists say "count back from..."

I was watching a DVD last night and this guy was being put under and the anesthesiologist say’s, “now count back from ten.”

When I was a teenager I had all my wisdom teeth pulled at once. They put me under. The anesthesiologist said, “count back from one hundred.” I started counting, “100, 99, 98, zzzzzzzzzzz.”

But why do they have you count backwards? What purpose does that serve? You’re about to get knocked out no matter what.

Well, IANAA, but I imagine it does at least one useful thing: it lets them know if the anesthesia is working or not. I once had stitches taken out with anesthesia to which I was immune. Counting wouldn’t have worked anyway for a local, but you see me point. And you can’t necessarily count on a medical history for that information either because this surgery might be the patient’s first contact with that specific kind of anesthesia.

As for counting backwards, maybe they figure that it would be less boring than counting forwards. I, for one, count forwards a heck of lot more often than backwards.

When I had my wisdom teeth pulled Thursday before last, I got general in a nose tube, with no counting. If I had counted, I think it would have been a lot like your experience.

WAG time… it can be a bit unsettling to be put under.

Counting up from 0-10 is something most people do without thinking.

Counting down requires concentration, and helps take the mind of an anxiety.

Plus (as noted) it gives an idea of how long the drugs take to work… someone who makes it from 100 to 88 on a standard dose may need a bit extra later on, as they’d appear more resistant to its effects?

Counting backwards is harder for most people than counting forwards so the docs can get an idea if you’re starting to go under by how many mistakes you make.

So what would happen if the anesthesiologist said, “count backwards from 100,” and I said, “42, 76, 25…”

Would everyone freak out, abort the procedure and revive me? Or would they just think, “this guy must have been educated in the California school system…” :wink:

I always thought that it was the same idea as “Hey, check this shit out” from the anesthesiologist. Most people don’t remember it of course but, before every surgery, someone has pointed out that I will have to count back from 100 and won’t even make it past 87 or something. It always made me feel better. It also keeps the patient from panicking at the wrong time.

The only time I was ever under general anæsthesia was when I had my wisdom teeth taken out. I asked the anæsthesiologist, “Aren’t you going to ask me to count backwards from 100 by sevens, or something?”. It turns out, no, she wasn’t. She just talked with me, and judged my state from my conversational responses. I was rather disappointed… I had psyched myself up for a display of mental accuity, and was vaguely hoping to reach “two… Negative five… Negative twelve…”

I’m kind of anxious about this myself. I’m about to go in for a procedure (August 11, I’m counting the days) that requires a general anesthetic.

Who else has gotten one recently? I’m utterly terrified by the prospect. I don’t like being knocked out, I hate and fear those horror stories of people waking up on the table. I once nearly fainted when giving blood and that goes down as one of the more frightening moments of my life.

What’s it feel like when you’re going down?

If it’s anything at all like my experience, you should look forward to it. They put an IV in your arm, ask you to count backwards and you’re out. Like a light switch. You feel nothing at all. When I woke up I was stoned. In a good way. Woo, hoo! Life is good! I love you doctor! Did I mention I love you? Let’s go party!

When I had my tonsils out (age 9) they said “count back from 10”. I said “teh…” and woke up in the recovery room.

It feels like you’re falling thru a tunnel, with a light at the end. When you reach the opening, there is a Christ-like figure (your father? mother?) beckoning you. It’s a feeling of peacefulness.

A lot like a NDE (Near-Death Experience).

I had an emergency appendectomy. I started counted backwards, and I honestly dont think I made it to 97. When I came to in the recovery room, I had no sensation that any time had passed. It took me a while to figure out that I wasn’t still in the operating room waiting for them to start.

The operation took a little more than an hour, but it took about four or five hours for the stuff to wear off. My wife and daughter came to see me and I kept drifting off to sleep.

There’s always a worst case scenario, but I think for the vast majority of people, the experience of anasthesia is completely uneventful. Just like flying in an airplane.

Not recently, but the last time I had general anesthetic, they gave me some kind of relaxing-type medication first (Versed or something similar, I assume), which also causes some memory loss after the fact. Apparently I was carrying on a conversation perfectly well with my mother and the anesthesiologist, but don’t recall doing so. From my point of view, I got the first medication, I was chatting, I got sleepy, and woke up in recovery.

Unless I’ve had completely screwed up memories from immediately before my several operations, I’ve never been asked to do anything except lay there. Prior to my most recent surgery they put an IV in my arm, they just made some light conversation, my arm felt strangely warm where the IV was (I assume that’s when they injected the drugs), and I woke up in recovery.

FWIW, counting backward by 7s is part of a mini-mental status examination. Counting backward by 1s is the check for anesthesia.

I already know counting backwards from 1s is for anesthesia. What’s a mini-mental status examination? If someone asked me to count backwards by 7s I’m guessing I’d end up in a straight-jacket, unless they let me count on my fingers.

It’s like falling asleep very very quickly. As others have noted, you wake up and you don’t feel like any time has passed. I actually said, “Is it over?” even though I knew it had to be because they were wheeling me out of the operating suite.

Anesthesia for a planned operation is a LOT different than for emergency surgery. They’ve had time to personalize your dose for planned surgery so that you wake up very shortly after the surgery and (if it’s outpatient) are able to go home very shortly after that. After my wrist surgery, I came home and checked email and went about my day until the pain meds kicked in.

A mini-mental status exam (also, “min-mental state exam”) is a quick way to screen for confusion, cognitive problems, and possible gross neurological trouble. It’s used in part to help determine whether more specific inquiry and testing should be performed. If you’re in pretty good shape, it just seems a little weird. If you’re not in good shape, it’s very difficult. Tasks include spelling a word backward, copying a geometric figure, saying where you are, remembering three items for several minutes, and the like. “Serial 7s” wasn’t part of the MMSE per se, but is sometimes tacked on or substituted for a different item. If you can’t do serial 7s, you may be asked to try serial 3s.

In some circumstances, much of information sought by the MMSE can be gleaned in the context of a basic intake interview. If a person’s answers are impoverished or odd in certain ways, they might then be asked formal MMSE questions. If a person’s cognition and memory appear grossly intact, there’s no need for that. The intention is not to trick anybody, but rather to have an easy triage tool for situations where the person may not be able to tell you what’s happened–a person with dementia, for example, or somebody who’s fallen off a ladder.

I had a cyst removed from my wrist (in a house with a mouse on a box eating bagels and lox) about five months ago.

They kept me kinda below radar for most of it, but I was awake some of the time. The surgeon numbed the SHIT out of my wrist and hand, so being awake during the surgery was kinda cool.

I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to drugs, so I was worried about anxiety. Not to worry. One minute I was watching the pretty designs dance on the ceiling, the next minute I remember telling everyone, “Wait, I can feel that.” Meaning, I could feel the pressure of the surgeon digging around (or maybe he was closing).

Then I was in the wake up room. I went home and played Nintendo for the rest of the day. (They sure don’t let you rest any more.)

I thought it was kinda fun. And a day off work!

The one time I was put under, while having my teeth pulled, I got as far as 97. But the kicker was that I woke up during the surgery and have a very vivid memory of it (I was 11 years old).

I opened my eyes and noticed a number of people standing over me and a number of…instruments coming out of my mouth. A couple of seconds passed as I looked around until someone noticed my eyes were open. She said, “Go back to sleep” and I just said “OK.” Next thing I knew, the operation was over.

As a side note, trust your doctor when he tells you it will take a while to recover from the effects of the anesthetic. When I woke up, I sat up and felt fine. The doctor and my mom wanted to help me down and walk me over to a couch they had so that I could recover enough to go home. I told them that I felt perfectly fine and was ready to go home, and they finally relented because I insisted. So I hopped off the table…

…and fell flat on my face. My legs weren’t quite working properly. They carried me over to the couch, and apparently I slept another 90 minutes or so.

Trust the adults, I always say. :slight_smile: