About anesthesia for children
Knowing what to expect about a procedure or surgery can help can calm your fears, help reduce your child’s anxiety and speed his or her recovery. Depending on the procedure, your child may have surgery in the hospital and spend the night, or have a procedure in an outpatient facility and go home the same day.
There are different types of anesthesia, and your child may receive one or more for the procedure. Your anesthesiologist may also provide anesthesia if your child requires tests, such as a special type of X-ray or other imaging exam, to ensure your child’s safety and the success of the test.
Who will provide anesthesia to your child?
Your child will be cared for by a physician anesthesiologist, a licensed medical doctor with specialized training and Board Certification/Eligibility in Anesthesiology. You can learn about our 260+ physician anesthesiologists in our directory.
How we will care for your child
We understand that children can be frightened about medical procedures. Your anesthesiologist will work with you, your child, and the other physicians and nurses to calm fears and ensure safety and comfort before, during, and after the procedure.
Your child’s anesthesiologist may contact you by phone the night before surgery, and will meet with you at the hospital before the procedure to discuss your child’s anesthesia plan in detail. During this time you are encouraged to ask any questions about your child’s experience during surgery, what to expect in recovery, or potential side effects from anesthesia. Your anesthesiologist will review your child’s health history and ask questions such as:
- Does your child have any special medical issues?
- Does your child have allergies or asthma?
- Does your child have any special needs?
- Has your child had anesthesia before? If so, what was the experience like?
Knowing more about your child’s health helps your anesthesiologist make decisions to ensure the procedure goes smoothly and successfully. Your child may receive medication by mouth to help relax them before going into the operating room or procedure suite.
During the surgery
Your anesthesiologist will provide medications to make your child comfortable and pain-free during the procedure. Anesthesia will be given through a mask that lets your child inhale the medication, or through an intravenous (IV) line. Many times teenagers have an IV placed before the procedure while they are awake, and this is something you can talk to your teen about to help prepare them. The anesthesiologist will closely monitor your child throughout the entire procedure for changes in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. If needed, adjustments in the anesthesia will be made to keep your child safe and comfortable.
Some children are fully alert right away after surgery and others may be groggy for a few hours. Sometimes nausea and vomiting occur as a side effect from anesthesia. Your child’s pain will continue to be controlled after he or she wakes up from the procedure. The anesthesiologist will determine the safest and most effective pain control method to make your child’s recovery as comfortable as possible including medication given by mouth, through an IV, or injection of numbing medication around nerves (an epidural, caudal or peripheral nerve block).
Long-term effects of anesthesia in children
Recently there has been concern about the safety of anesthesia in children based on animal research. This led the FDA to suggest that prolonged exposure to anesthesia medications may affect brain development in young children. At Oregon Anesthesiology Group, we take this statement very seriously and remain committed to providing the safest care to all of our patients. At this time, there is no direct evidence linking anesthesia to effects on behavior, learning, or memory but research is ongoing. It is important that children receive appropriate sedation or anesthesia for procedures that are essential to their health. As new research comes forward, we will remain up to date on the latest evidence, always keeping the safety of children at the forefront of our care. More information can be found at: http://smarttots.org/faq-for-parents
How to talk to your child about anesthesia?
Calm and confident | It is soothing for children when their parents are confident. Calmly explain to your child what to expect, why the procedure or surgery is important, and reinforce he or she will be well cared for.
Being in a new place | Explain that the hospital or surgery center is different than home and your child may be taken through many rooms and hallways on the way to and from the procedure. Let them know that even though you will not be with them through the procedure, you’ll be waiting nearby.
We’re here to help | Explain to your child that the doctors and nurses are here to help. Explain that he or she might be sore after the surgery or feel a little sick, but that it is normal and will go away. Your anesthesiologist will provide medicine to help with pain or nausea.