The egg retrieval process uses a propofol-based anesthesia—not a general anesthesia, but rather an intravenous sedation medication—to ensure you feel no pain or discomfort during the egg retrieval process.
We’re proud to partner with Alfond Ambulatory Anesthesia, a group of board-certified anesthesiologists led by Dr. Steven Alfond. Dr. Alfond has over 20 years of experience administering anesthesia to the reproductive medicine community, making him one of the most experienced fertility anesthesia providers in New York City.
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Here, we ask him a few questions about his background, and what a woman freezing her eggs can expect during the anesthesia experience.
Extend Fertility: How long have you been in anesthesiology?
Dr. Alfond: I finished my residency in 1993. Then, I worked at Astoria General Hospital from 1993–2000. During that time, I was also doing some outpatient anesthesia, and I realized I enjoyed that more. So in 2000, I left the hospital entirely, and I’ve been doing just outpatient anesthesia since.
In the beginning, I was doing a mixture of plastic surgery, gastrointestinal medicine, and fertility procedures. Within a few years, I realized the thing I enjoyed most was the fertility work, and as I got busier and busier, I decided to focus my attention just on fertility anesthesia.
EF: How many fertility procedures do you think you’ve done anesthesia for?
Dr. Alfond: Conservatively, 25,000. The real number might be closer to 40,000. I joke around sometimes that I’ve probably seen more fertility cases than any human alive—but that may actually be true!
EF: What can the patient expect during the egg retrieval?
Dr. Alfond: Before the procedure, we do a quick interview, and then we place a small IV and attach monitors. [EF note: Because this is not general anesthesia, you’ll be breathing on your own—no need for breathing tubes.] Then, they receive propofol to go sleep. As the propofol takes effect, many patients say they experience a tingling sensation in their face or a metallic taste in their mouth. It usually takes about 10 seconds to work—it works very quickly.
I like to emphasize that the patient won’t have any pain during the procedure or remember anything from the procedure; a lot of patients ask about that.
Afterward, depending on the person’s pain tolerance and the number of eggs retrieved, they might have some cramping pain, which we can treat fairly easily with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory or a narcotic pain medication. The whole procedure is pretty quick and simple.
Learn more about the egg retrieval experience.
EF: How is the anesthesia used in an egg freezing procedure different from other kinds of anesthesia?
Dr. Alfond: The anesthesia used during an egg retrieval is not general anesthesia. It’s deep sedation. To distinguish: there’s light sedation, like taking a dose of Valium; during light sedation, patients are awake, and they’ll probably remember what’s going on. Light sedation might be used for simpler procedures. The fertility procedures require something a little deeper; we call it deep sedation. Most patients require just one medication—propofol—and, depending on pain, a pain medication.
EF: Are there risks associated with this type of anesthesia?
Dr. Alfond: In general, egg freezing patients have very few medical problems, if any. The overall anesthesia risks associated with a young, healthy woman having a short sedation procedure are about as low as they possibly could be. I try to emphasize that—it’s a very low-risk experience.
EF note: For patients with specific medical issues or concerns, or a past history of problems with anesthesia, we do a consultation with the patient before the procedure is scheduled and make a specific plan for anesthesia in advance of the procedure day. And in the very unlikely case of an emergency, all of our anesthesiologists are board-certified and ACLS-ready—meaning they’re well equipped to stabilize and manage an acute situation when necessary.
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