Anesthesia for Children
Hospital visits can be overwhelming for both you and your child. But as anesthesiologists, we hope to allay your anxieties and make your experience as safe and comfortable as possible.
Your child’s anesthesiologist will meet with both you and your child before surgery to ask some general health history questions and to make sure your child is ready for the anesthetic and the procedure. It is important to let your doctor know of any health issues, including allergies, upper respiratory infections, asthma, diabetes and any family history or previous experiences of difficulties with anesthetic medications. You and your child are welcome to ask any questions at this time or express any apprehension. Your doctor has your child’s best interests at heart, and will do everything possible to ensure a safe experience.
Anesthesia is given to children much the same way as adults. Some pediatric patients may be given a small sedative, or pre-medication, before surgery to calm any jittery nerves and facilitate the separation anxiety. Once in the surgery suite, your child may be put to sleep while breathing anesthesia gases through a mask or through an intravenous injection. Your anesthesiologist will inform you what method would be best for your child based on many factors.
With general anesthesia, patients are free from pain and enter an unconsciousness state. During surgery, your anesthesiologist is constantly monitoring your child’s condition and making any necessary adjustments or interventions, minimizing any risk.
In some procedures, a regional anesthesia may be indicated instead of or in addition to a general anesthetic. Regional anesthesia provides the desired pain relief to a specific area of the body and allows the patient to remain conscious or lessen the pain after the surgery. The most common form of regional anesthesia for children is a caudal injection similar to what mothers are given during childbirth. This will lessen the pain after the surgery and is considered a low risk procedure with significant benefit. Our specialists may also offer extremity nerve blocks to help with pain management, especially with orthopedic procedures.
After surgery, your child will be moved to the recovery room. Some children may recover from anesthesia quickly, while others may experience some grogginess and possible nausea. Some children may require additional pain management after surgery to ease any lingering discomfort. There are several methods for this, including injections, patient-controlled analgesia or regional techniques. Should you have any concerns during your child’s recovery process, please feel free to speak with your anesthesiologist or nurse. Some children may wake up somewhat disoriented from anesthesia. This is known as “emergence phenomenon” and may take 10-15 minutes to resolve. The disorientation and restlessness do not necessarily reflect pain and will dissipate within minutes.
While your child is at the hospital, you are the biggest help to your child and your doctors. It is important to prepare your child for the upcoming surgery, as well as the sights and sounds of the hospital or clinic as soon as you can. With an understanding of what’s ahead, children are often better prepared for surgery and anesthesia. Honestly inform your child what they will experience, including some discomfort, and that you may not be able to be with them at all times. If mom and dad are calm, your child will be much more relaxed and better prepared physically for surgery.