"People," says Dr. Eli M. Brown, "would be a great deal more concerned about knowing (in advance) who their anesthesiologist is, if they realized he not only puts you to sleep and makes sure you feel no pain during the procedure, but equally or perhaps even more important, he monitors the patient throughout surgery to make sure the anesthetics don't adversely affect the heart, the lungs, the brain, the kidney.

"He does this through sophisticated biomedical, electronic monitoring devices, many of which are relatively new, and then by altering or even changing the anesthetic during the operation and administering the proper drug therapy when unforseen complications arise. He must make on-the-spot diagnoses and take immediate action. No time for a zillion lab tests and things like that."

Anesthesiologists, adept in pharmacology as well as biochemistry and physiology, are, says Brown, "the patient's advocate" in the operating room.

The night-before-surgery visit, he stresses, is not a routine social call. You should tell the anesthesiologist if:

You smoke.

You have allergies.

You have ever had a drug or food reaction.

You are taking medicine (like thyroid, estrogen, or hypertension drugs, for example).

You should ask:

What he plans to use and why.

How he plans to administer it.

Whether you will wake up with tubes.

What side effects to expect, (Many anesthetic agents or muscle relaxants -- like Valium -- remain in the system for several days and may continue to make you feel spacey. If you don't expect it, you may feel spacey and frightened.)