The rapid economic growth in East Asia might have an impact on the development of research output. Because previous bibliometric analysis about anesthesiology in this region had been limited to research within anesthesiology journals or anesthesia-related research, the total publications from anesthesia departments might not be well displayed. In this study, the databases of Web of Science and PubMed were used to assess the academic productivity and distribution of research diversity of anesthesia departments from four major countries in East Asia and compared those with the USA. From 2001 to 2010 the volume of scientific research from anesthesia departments in East Asia has stably increased. Although Japan was the most productive contributor in East Asia, its share declined annually. China increased most rapidly and exceeded Japan in 2010 in terms of annual number of papers. Research attributed to anesthesia departments in East Asia was diverse and present in a wide range of non-anesthesia field journals. Notably the annual number of randomized controlled trials in East Asia also had a strong growth.