The impaired and/or disabled anesthesiologist

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Purpose of review

Impairment and/or disability resulting from any of a number of etiologies will afflict a significant number of anesthesiologists at some point during their career. The impaired anesthesiologist can be difficult to identify and challenging to manage. Questions will arise as to if, how, and when colleagues, family members, or friends should intercede if significant impairment is suspected.

Purpose of review

This review will examine the common sources of impairment among anesthesiologists and the professional implications of these conditions. We will discuss the obligations of an anesthesiologist and his/her colleagues when there is sufficient suspicion that he/she might be impaired.

Recent findings

Substance use disorder remains one of the commonest sources of impairment among both resident and attending anesthesiologists. Other common etiologies of impairment include various physical ailments, major psychiatric disorders, especially depression and burnout, and age related dementia. Many regulatory organizations, healthcare systems, and state licensing agencies have developed programmes and protocols with which to identify and direct into treatment those suspected of significant impairment.


Some degree of impairment will occur to one-third of anesthesiologists during the course of their career. It is important to understand how such impairments might impact the safe practice of anesthesiology.

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