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Some medical tests or procedures require the patient to hold perfectly still. Such procedures may not be painful but can be quite stressful for children. At times, remaining still and calm can be too much to ask of a child. Anesthesia may be needed for your child’s safety and well-being when being awake would cause anxiety and increase risk.
Diagnostic imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans, often requires anesthesia when the patient is a child. Interventional procedures—such as guiding a needle to obtain a biopsy (tissue sample) or placing a central venous line for chemotherapy or medicine—usually require anesthesia in children.
Pediatric anesthesiologists and other anesthesiology team members are specially trained to work with children and families in these cases. Your child will be closely monitored throughout the procedure to make sure he or she remains safely asleep, so the healthcare team can complete its work quickly and effectively. The anesthesiology team will also address any concerns you may have before and after the procedure.
If your child needs an MRI or other diagnostic procedure, a nurse will call you at least one day beforehand. The nurse will talk to you about:
The instructions and answers may vary depending on your child’s age, the procedure your child is undergoing and the time of the procedure.
When you arrive, a nurse will weigh your child and take his or her blood pressure and other vital signs. A pediatric anesthesiologist will talk to you and your child and may ask a few questions. When it is time for the procedure, your child will be taken to another room where he or she will go to sleep almost instantly after breathing gas through a mask. If your child needs an IV, it can usually be placed after he or she is asleep. If it must be placed while he or she is awake, an anesthesia team member will place it as quickly and comfortably as possible.
For an MRI scan or other diagnostic procedure, you will most likely stay with your child until he or she goes to sleep. For more complex interventional procedures, a Child Life specialist will accompany him or her to ease any fears and provide pleasant distractions, such as a tablet computer for playing a game or watching a video until drifting off to sleep.
Your child’s vital signs and level of consciousness will be monitored to make sure he or she stays safely asleep throughout the procedure. Afterward, the anesthesiologist will stop the medicine so that he or she will wake up. Once the procedure is complete and your child begins to wake up, he or she will be moved to another room where you will be reunited.
When your child first wakes up, he or she might seem confused, frightened or unhappy. Usually, these feelings quickly subside and are soon forgotten. The medical team will keep watching and caring for your child until he or she is awake and comfortable and his or her vital signs are normal.
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