When your child is having surgery, safely controlling pain during and after the operation is especially critical. Children are often frightened by pain, and children who have bad healthcare experiences can become afraid to seek care in the future.
Pediatric anesthesiologists have special training in controlling pain regionally through nerve blocks or epidurals that work on specific nerve groups. These methods have a long history of safety in children. They can provide more consistent pain control and may reduce the need for oral or injectable medicines that often have troublesome side effects. The focus is on keeping patients as comfortable as possible while also keeping them safe.
If the anesthesiologist uses an epidural or nerve block, the injection or placement of the catheter can be done while your child is asleep. In most cases, children fall asleep quickly while breathing medicine through a mask (surgical anesthesia).The epidural or nerve block will control pain during and after surgery.
What to Expect
What to Expect
To control pain at the surgical site, anesthesiologists at Riley at IU Health may use one of two types of anesthesia:
- Epidural. During this procedure, pain medicine is injected near the base of the spine either through a single injection or using a catheter. This method is also known as neuraxial anesthesia. It affects nerves below the level of the epidural. A single injection can control pain for several hours, and a catheter can be used to provide medicine continuously for up to four or five days. With a catheter in place, the dosage is regulated so pain control is more consistent.
- Regional anesthesia. This procedure uses injections called nerve blocks that act on specific nerve groups. Nerve blocks allow the anesthesiologist to target certain areas of skin and muscle, such as the hand or knee, using ultrasound to guide placement of the injection.
On the day of your child’s surgery, the pediatric anesthesiologist will talk to you about the plan for controlling pain. He or she will let you know if your child would benefit from regional and acute pain control during or after the operation. He or she will also talk to you about the benefits and possible risks of different types of anesthesia and what the anesthesiology team will do to help keep your child safe. A Child Life specialist may also interact with your child to help keep him or her distracted from any discomfort and to provide positive ways to express any fear or other emotions.
If your child goes home after the surgery, the injected medicine will help make the ride home more comfortable. In most cases, your child may take oral medicine, usually prescribed by the surgeon, to help control pain at home after the injection wears off.
If your child is staying overnight or longer in the hospital after the operation, the anesthesia team will continue to monitor him or her for pain control, adjusting the dosage to safely keep your child as comfortable as possible.
While complete absence of pain after surgery may not be possible, regional and acute pain anesthesia can make surgery much more tolerable for children.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- Pediatric anesthesiologists can control pain at the surgical site through epidurals (given near the base of the spine through a single injection or catheter) or nerve blocks (injections that act on specific nerve groups).
- Both methods are safe for children and can help reduce the need for oral or intravenous (IV) medicines that can have more troublesome side effects.
- Injections usually last for several hours, and if a catheter is placed, medicine can be given continuously to control pain for up to five days.
- A pediatric anesthesiologist will talk to you before your child’s operation about the pain control plan.
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