Any kind of surgery on a child is likely to involve general anesthesia. General anesthesia includes the use of medicine inhaled through a mask or breathing tube or injected into a vein to keep the child safely asleep until the surgery is over. Even minor surgery can be frightening for children, so it is safer and less stressful if the child is fully asleep.
In most cases, children go to sleep within a minute or two by inhaling medicine through a mask. Most children will also need an intravenous (IV) port placed to receive pain medicine, fluids, antibiotics and anti-nausea medicine. Some children with congenital heart conditions or other health issues cannot safely breathe anesthesia medicine through a mask. These children receive medicine through a vein and go to sleep very quickly.
Before your child’s surgery, a nurse will call you to provide more details about the surgery, including when to be at the hospital and when your child should stop eating and drinking before the surgery. This is a great time to ask questions about the procedure.
What to Expect
What to Expect
Below is what you can expect before, during and after your child's surgery at Riley at IU Health:
- Before surgery, a member of your child's anesthesiology team will do a preoperative evaluation to make sure your child can safely undergo anesthesia. The team member will come to the preoperative area to talk to you about your child’s health history, any family history of problems with anesthesia and any illness or infection your child may have. He or she will also perform a physical examination to make sure the heart, lungs and upper airways are working properly and to identify anything that could present a risk during anesthesia.
- Once the preoperative evaluation is complete, a pediatric anesthesiologist will meet with your family to discuss the anesthesia plan. The plan might include sedation, general anesthesia and local anesthetics to control regional pain during and after surgery. The anesthesiologist will also talk to you about the benefits of anesthesia for your child as well as any risks. You will be asked to sign a consent form, or if your child is 18 or older, he or she will be asked to sign.
- In most cases, a child life specialist will meet with your family before the surgery and may accompany your child into the operating room. These specialists are trained and experienced in working with children and families to make healthcare less stressful and to help keep children relaxed and calm. Your child might have a chance to decorate the mask they will use to inhale anesthesia medicine and/or pick a flavor of lip balm to put inside the mask to make it smell good.
- Some children become anxious before surgery and may receive anti-anxiety medicine before undergoing anesthesia to help them relax.
- When the time comes for surgery, a nurse will take your child to the operating room. The child life specialist will accompany your child and provide a toy or tablet computer for your child to play with before drifting off to sleep.
- Your child's vital signs will be monitored throughout the surgery and until he or she is fully awake. The anesthesiologist will also monitor the level of medicine entering and leaving your child’s lungs to ensure your child remains fully and safely asleep throughout the surgery.
- For children on IV anesthesia or at an increased risk of waking, the anesthesiologist will use special technology to monitor the level of consciousness so he or she can take steps to prevent waking or awareness during surgery.
- After the surgery, the anesthesiologist will stop administering medicine so your child will begin to wake up. Your child may remain asleep or nearly asleep for a few minutes to a few hours, depending on his or her condition and the type of surgical procedure. Your child will be closely monitored during this time.
- You will be reunited with your child when he or she is awake and able to interact.
Most children are groggy and might be cranky or confused for a while—perhaps several hours—after waking up. Some children become severely agitated and upset after anesthesia. If this happens, the anesthesiologist can provide mild sedation to help your child calm down and recover. If your child feels nauseated when he or she wakes up, the nurse can provide medicine to help him or her feel better and prevent vomiting. Keep in mind that any negative effects from anesthesia are usually short-lived.
Before your child goes home or to a hospital room, the anesthesiologist will make sure pain and nausea are controlled and vital signs are within safe ranges. Your child may still be sleepy, cranky or confused for several hours after waking up. In most cases, you can remain with your child during this time, and a Child Life specialist may also be on hand to help you and your child stay calm and comfortable.
Key Points to Remember
Key Points to Remember
- Most children having surgery will need general anesthesia for their safety and well-being.
- If your child is scheduled for surgery with anesthesia, a nurse will call you beforehand to give you instructions and answer your questions.
- During the surgery, the anesthesiologist will monitor your child to make sure he or she stays safely asleep until it is time to wake up.
- When your child wakes up, he or she may be confused, groggy or upset. These feelings usually subside quickly and are soon forgotten.
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