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When Your Child Needs Surgery: Anesthesia

When Your Child Needs Surgery: Anesthesia

Your child is having surgery. During surgery, your child will receive anesthesia. This is medication that causes your child to relax and/or fall asleep, and not feel pain during surgery. See below for more information about different types of anesthesia. Anesthesia is given by a trained doctor called an anesthesiologist. A trained nurse called a nurse anesthetist may also help. They are part of your child’s operating team.

Types of Anesthesia

Mother and daughter with medical professional.

Your child may receive any of the following types of anesthesia during surgery.

  • General anesthesia is the most common type of anesthesia used. It may be given in gas form that is breathed in through a mask. Or, it may be given in liquid form in a vein (through an intravenous (IV) line). Sometimes both methods are used. General anesthesia causes your child to fall asleep and not feel pain during surgery.

  • Regional anesthesia may be used for certain surgical procedures. Part of the body is numbed by injecting anesthesia near the spinal cord or nerves in the neck, arms, or legs. Your child may remain awake or sleep lightly.

  • Monitored anesthesia care (also called monitored sedation) is often used for surgery that is short, and that does not go deep into the body. Sedatives may be given through a vein (an IV line). Sedatives are medications that help your child relax. A local anesthetic (numbing medication) may also be used. Your child may remain awake or sleep lightly. But he or she will likely not remember anything about the surgery.

  Before Surgery

  • Follow all food, drink, and medication instructions given by your child’s health care provider. This usually means that your child can have nothing to eat or drink for a set number of hours before surgery.

  • On the day of surgery, you and your child will meet with an anesthesiologist. He or she will go over with you the type of anesthesia your child will receive during surgery. You may need to sign a consent form to allow your child to receive anesthesia.

Let the Anesthesiologist Know

For your child’s safety, let the anesthesiologist know if your child:

  • Had anything to eat or drink before surgery.

  • Has any allergies.

  • Is taking medications.

  • Has had any recent illnesses.

During Surgery

  • Anesthesia may be started in a room called an induction room. Or, it may be started in the operating room.

  • You may be allowed to stay with your child until he or she is asleep. Check with your child’s anesthesiologist.

  • During surgery, the anesthesiologist and/or nurse anesthetist controls the amount of anesthesia your child receives. Special equipment is used to check your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen levels.

  • Anesthesia is stopped once surgery is complete. Your child will then wake up.

  After Surgery

  • Your child is taken to a postanesthesia care unit (PACU) or a recovery room.

  • You may be allowed to stay in the PACU or recovery room with your child. Every child reacts differently to anesthesia. Your child may wake up disoriented, upset, or even crying. These reactions are normal and usually pass quickly.

  • When ready, your child will be given clear liquids after surgery. He or she will gradually be given solid foods and return to a normal diet.

  • The surgeon will tell you if your child needs to stay longer in the hospital after surgery. If an overnight stay is needed, you’ll usually be told ahead of time.

  • Follow all discharge and home care instructions once your child leaves the hospital.

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • A sore throat that doesn’t go away

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F  (38.0ºC) or higher

  • In a child 3-36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0ºC)or higher

  • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4ºC) or higher

  • A fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old or for 3 days in a child 2 years older.

  • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever 


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