If your child needs an operation requiring anesthesia, your anesthesiologist will do everything possible to ensure that your child remains safe and comfortable.

He or she will constantly be regulating your child’s breathing, heart action, and blood pressure, and closely monitoring for other unexpected complications that may rarely occur during surgery.

An anesthesiologist my also be present in other types of hospital visits, such as during a specialized radiological test including diagnostic scans. Anesthesiologists may also be present to provide pain relief for your child, and consulted in the pediatric intensive care unit.

How can I help as a parent?

The anesthesiologist and surgeon will do everything they can to make your child’s experience as pain-free and positive as possible. However, as a parent, your role in the process is extremely important. Children feel much safer in surgery when they are well prepared, so it is important you talk to them about what to expect as much as possible. It is important to be honest with your child, explaining that he or she will be in an unfamiliar environment, and that there may be some discomfort after the operation. Remind your child that even though you cannot be there the entire time, he or she will be well taken care of by many doctors and nurses, and that you will be waiting nearby.

On the day of the operation, it is expected that you and your child will be nervous. Try not to show your anxiety, but rather reassure your child that everything the doctors do will be explained beforehand, and that they are trustworthy and there to help. Your confidence and composure can greatly affect your child’s experience and will help ensure that everything goes smoothly.

What will the anesthesiologist need to know?

During your pre-surgery consultation, the anesthesiologist will need to make sure your child is in the best possible physical condition for the operation. He or she will need to know your child’s and family’s complete medical history, especially whether anyone in the family has had complications from anesthesia. If your child has a cold or other minor illness, your anesthesiologist may decide to postpone surgery, as it can pose a risk to the effectiveness and safety of anesthesia.

During the consultation, you and your child will also have the opportunity to ask any questions or address concerns with your anesthesiologist.

Will my child receive any medication before surgery?

In the past, every child was given a sedative before surgery, However, doctors now agree that many children do not require sedation if they remain calm, and have a confident reassuring parent to help them through the stress of an operation. Some children may still need a sedative despite how calm their parent remains. In this case, the medication will be given by mouth, injection, or rectal suppository. The time this medication will be administered varies, and the anesthesiologist will determine the type of medication given.

How will my child be given anesthesia?

Anesthesia can be administered in several different ways. Usually with adults, anesthesia is injected so that the patient becomes unconscious rapidly. This method can also be used on children. Another option for children is breathing anesthetic agents, so that unconsciousness comes gradually. In this method, your child will be asked to breathe quietly though a “space mask,” and no needles will be necessary until after he or she is asleep. Your anesthesiologist will decide which method is best for your child.

Regional anesthesia may be another option for your child. With regional anesthesia, one part of the body can become numb so that surgery can be performed. For example, if your child was having foot surgery, a local injection of an anesthetic can eliminate pain and require less general anesthesia. Epidural anesthesia is often used on children, similar to that used for childbirth. Regional anesthesia can also be used for pain relief after surgery. Your anesthesiologist will discuss the advantage and disadvantages of different types of anesthesia with you.

Anesthesia does occasionally have side effects. It tends to decrease breathing, heart action, and blood pressure. Your anesthesiologist will monitor these effects carefully. Children awaken from anesthesia at different rates. Some may be fully awake after surgery, and others may take several hours before they are fully alert. Nausea and vomiting are common side effects following anesthesia. If you have any concerns about your child’s recovery, feel free to discuss them with your anesthesiologist.

How is pain controlled after surgery?

Your anesthesiologist may be consulted in helping manage your child’s pain after surgery. Some forms of pain relief your anesthesiologist may recommend include intravenous or oral medications and occasionally a nerve block may have been placed to ensure that the surgical site is numb after surgery.