For many, having to undergo a surgical or major medical procedure is “worst nightmare” territory anxiety-wise. There are quite a few fears at play here. Fear of being out of control. Fear of being away from safe places and people. Fear of sedation and anesthesia. Fear of complication or problems cause by the procedure in question. It can add up to an almost tragic level of avoidance in some cases, even when surgery or other medical procedures are critical to one’s well being.

Today I was joined by practicing anesthesiologist Dr. Frank Catanzaro. Dr. Catanzaro has been practicing for over 25 years in the Rochester, New York area and has encountered all these fears in his patients. Frank was kind enough to take some time to share his knowledge and experience with us.


1. EVERYBODY has anxiety or nervousness going into surgery or other major medical procedures. Anesthesiologists and other healthcare providers encounter this situation all the time. They are experienced in dealing with it.

2. If you are worried or anxious because you’re not sure how things are going to go, ASK. Rather than playing the “what if” game in your head, speak your concern to your surgeon or other members of your healthcare team. Dr. Catanzaro’s team is always happy to answer patient questions to help ease anxiety and worry. Odds are your team will be willing to do the same.

3. Pre-surgical treatment with a benzo is EXTREMELY common. This will likely be made available to you. Take advantage of it. Taking a benzo to lower your pre-surgery anxiety level is NOT avoidance and will not lead to addiction in any way. Dr. Catanzaro explains how refusing that option may mean a more difficult recovery post-surgery, so do your best to trust your medical team to give you good information and use the tools available to you.

4. Your anxiety and panic may change the parameters that your anesthesiologist will work within, but in the end even level 10 panic is no match for the medications used during surgery or other major medical procedures. A common fear is being “stuck” between awake and sedated because of severe panic. This does not happen.

Thanks to Dr. Catanzaro for taking the time to discuss this with us today!

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Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.