Post Anesthesia Care Unit

Post Anesthesia Care Unit

As members of a multidisciplinary team, the PACU Nursing professionals are committed to providing compassionate, high quality, progressive care to patients throughout their anesthesia experience.

The Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) provides a safe environment for patients following an operative procedure for which anesthesia has been required. Regardless if you have surgery as an outpatient or require admission to the hospital, you will be admitted to the PACU.

Our staff is composed of Registered Nurses (RN) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN). The nurses goal in PACU is to plan nursing care aimed at assisting patients with a safe return to consciousness without complications or adverse reaction to drugs or treatments. An anesthesiologist is always available to assist the nurses in caring for their patients.

All PACU nurses are certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and pursue continuing education on a regular basis.

After Surgery

Following surgery you will be admitted to the PACU where monitors are attached, including a blood pressure cuff, cardiac monitor, and pulse oximeter (a clip is placed on a finger which measures the oxygen in your blood). An oxygen mask or nose prongs may be applied depending on the type of anesthesia given, how awake you are or as necessary. The surgical site is examined, intravenous fluids checked, and report is obtained from the anesthesia provider and the operating room nurse. This information is vital in planning your care. Vital signs are taken every 5-15 minutes unless your condition warrants otherwise. You will remain in the PACU until the nurse and/or the anesthesiologist determines that you have met criteria for discharge.

Comfort Measures

Following anesthesia, it is common for you to experience a sore throat, aching muscles, or a feeling of general malaise for up to 24 hours. It is not uncommon for patients to experience shivering following surgery. The PACU nurse will provide warmed blankets for you and if necessary, a special blanket through which warm air is circulated. If the shivering is extreme, you will be given medication to decrease this unpleasant sensation. Nausea and vomiting is another potential side effect that may occur following anesthesia. If you have a history of motion sickness or nausea and vomiting following anesthesia, it is important for you to inform the anesthesiologist prior to surgery. It may be possible to give you medication before or during surgery to decrease the likelihood of this occurring. Should you experience nausea or vomiting in the PACU, the PACU nurse will administer medication through your IV line to alleviate your discomfort.

Pain following surgery is a common occurrence and should be anticipated. Pain is a difficult symptom to assess because you are the only expert on what you are experiencing. It is important for you to describe to the PACU nurse exactly how you are feeling. One method the PACU nurse may use to assess your pain is the numeric scale, where you rate your pain level on a scale of 0-10. “0” means no pain and “10” means the worst pain you can imagine. This helps the nurse to determine how intense your pain is. The PACU nurse will then give you pain medicine through your IV line until you are more comfortable. It is an unrealistic expectation to be pain free when leaving the PACU, but it is our goal that your pain will be under control and within a tolerable range for you. Your surgeon will also order pain medication for you regardless if you go home or stay in the hospital.


In consideration of patients’ confidentiality and privacy, visitors are not allowed in PACU. Family members and friends are invited to stay in the designated waiting areas. Family members will be given a pager to allow them to visit our coffee shop or cafeteria should they desire to do so. The surgeon will notify family members when the surgery is finished and the patient is in PACU. Exceptions to the visitation policy may be necessary for patients with special needs such as those needing a translator. Children will have one parent invited into PACU once the child is awake.

Telephone calls from family members to the PACU is strongly discouraged. The PACU nurses are unable to give out patient information over the telephone due to confidentiality issues. This applies to all family members.

Hours of Operation

The PACU is open from 8am - 4:30pm, Monday - Friday. Should you require surgery after hours, you will be recovered in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for safety reasons only.

Discharge from PACU

Once the PACU nurse and/or the anesthesiologist have determined that discharge criteria have been met, you will be discharged from the PACU. If you are going home following your surgery, you will return to the Ambulatory Surgery Unit (ASU). The ASU nurse will continue your care until it is determined safe for you to return home. If your surgery requires admission to the hospital, a nurse will transfer you to your room, along with transferring you to a hospital bed for comfort, where you will meet your family and the nurse who will continue to care for you.

We will be happy to answer your questions or concerns regarding the information you have accessed on this site.

Please contact

Tammy Reynolds, RN
Interim Nurse Manager
Post Anesthesia Care Unit
(518) 483-3000 ext. 648