For many patients, anesthesia is the scariest part of surgery. But you can ease your fears -- and help prevent the rare negative outcome -- with awareness and good communication with doctors. Here are some tips:

Don't cheat on "no food or drink" orders: As a rule, patients should have nothing for eight hours before surgery -- even gum. If you get sick and vomit while under anesthesia, the contents can get into your lungs and be dangerous.

Know your medical history: Tell your doctor the specific names and doses of all drugs you take, as well as past surgeries. If you've had problems with anesthesia before -- including nausea -- speak up. Also pass along any known family history of complications.

Stop taking herbal medications: Doctors generally advise avoiding these products for two weeks before an operation, as they can cause heightened bleeding.

Ask questions: Meet with your anesthesiologist and get all the answers you need before heading into the operating room. Learn about the type of drugs you will get; you may have a choice between general or regional anesthesia.

Arrange for a caregiver: A responsible adult should drive you home and stay with you the day of an outpatient surgery, even after minor operations. Don't take a taxi or get dropped off at home alone; on top of recovering from surgery, you'll probably feel the effects of anesthetic drugs for several hours.