Anesthesia for Children

Surgery can be a very stressful experience for both you and your child. Fortunately, the surgery center environment is often less overwhelming and intimidating than the hospital environment. Your child’s anesthesiologist is there to help make the experience as safe and stress-free as possible.

The 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 medically optimized for the procedure. It is important to let your anesthesiologist know about any health issues, allergies to medications, and previous problems with anesthesia or within the family. Your anesthesiologist has your child’s best interests at heart and the more information that you can provide will help to ensure a safe and pleasant experience.

Anesthesia is administered to children in much the same way that it is administered to adults. Depending upon your child’s age and level of anxiety, some children will be given a small amount of sedative (pre-medication) before surgery to help calm jittery nerves. Once in the operating room, your child will fall asleep by either breathing in and out medication through a mask or through medication administered intravenously. Your anesthesiologist will discuss with you the best method for your child given the type of surgery planned and the circumstances specific to your situation.

Under general anesthesia, your child will be completely unaware and free from pain. During surgery, your anesthesiologist is continuously monitoring your child’s vital signs and intervening as necessary to help ensure a successful and safe surgical experience.

For some surgical procedures your anesthesiologist will discuss with you the option of performing a regional anesthetic after your child falls asleep. Regional anesthesia provides pain relief to a specific area of the body and can reduce the total amount of medication necessary under general anesthesia. It also provides post-operative pain control and, therefore, minimizes the amount of pain medications necessary after surgery in the Recovery Room. For children undergoing certain urologic procedures (e.g., circumcision), a caudal injection, or “saddle block,” similar to an epidural injection that mothers receive during childbirth, is often recommended to help ensure a comfortable recovery.

After surgery your child will be brought to the Recovery Room. Some children wake up from anesthesia quickly while others remain sleepy for a little while. Children that receive a sedative pre-operatively are more likely to be sleepier in the Recovery Room. It is normal and very common for children to wake up from anesthesia crying. As soon as possible, you will be brought into the Recovery Room to be with your child during his or her recovery. The nurse will administer pain medication ordered by your anesthesiologist as needed to keep your child comfortable. If you have any questions or concerns during the recovery period, please feel free to ask to speak with your nurse or anesthesiologist.

Please remember that you are the biggest help to your child in making the surgical experience a positive one. It is important to prepare your child for the upcoming surgery by honestly explaining why they are having surgery and what they are likely to experience at the surgery center. We have found that children with an understanding of what will happen tend to be more cooperative and less anxious. Most importantly, if your child sees that you are calm then he or she is more likely to feel better and relaxed on the day of surgery.