Anesthesia: What to Expect and How to Prepare Your Child
Anesthesia is a term used to describe any medications administered to prevent the feeling of pain or sensation during a medical procedure.
It is always frightening, for both parents and children, to learn that a child must undergo anesthesia.
To make the best of a bad situation, it’s important for parents to feel well-prepared and have all of their questions answered. It also helps to learn some age-appropriate responses for any of your child’s questions.
What is Anesthesia?
Anesthesia is a term used to describe any medications administered to prevent the feeling of pain or sensation during a medical procedure. These can come in the form of intravenous drugs or inhaled gases. A pediatric anesthesiologist will administer the medications to your child and, along with a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), will keep a close watch on vital functions and breathing.
There are four types of anesthesia. It will depend upon the procedure being performed as to which one your child will receive. For most forms, the patient remains awake; but if general anesthesia is ordered, the child will be “put to sleep.” General anesthesia is usually given when the procedure is expected to take a long time, is performed in the chest or upper abdominal areas, can include significant blood loss, or can expose the patient to a cold environment.
The Four Types of Anesthesia
- Local anesthetics are given by injection, spray, or ointment, to numb a small area, such as when one needs stitches. The child will remain awake and alert.
- Regional anesthetics are given by injection to numb a larger area of the body, such as when an epidural is administered. Depending on the circumstances, your child may be awake or sedated while it is given.
- Conscious or IV sedation is when the patient is given a mixture of sedative and anesthetic and is generally not administered by an anesthesiologist. This is a common practice in the dental industry and allows the patient to remain awake, but he or she may not be able to speak during the procedure and may not remember it afterwards. Most normal activities can be resumed soon after the procedure.
- General anesthesia is given through gases or IV. The patient is “put to sleep” and will feel nothing, nor have any memory of what happened. It typically takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour to recover.
Some younger children may be given a sweet-tasting sedative before going into the operating room, so that it is easier for the doctor to give anesthesia. The process of taking the child from an “awake” state to under anesthesia is known as induction.