Children and Anesthesia: What You Need to Know

Your child needs a surgical procedure that requires the use of some form of anesthesia. It’s natural to have some concerns—after all, anesthesia involves the use of sometimes-powerful drugs to deaden the pain of a procedure or put the patient to sleep, and a child’s small body may respond differently to these drugs than an adult would. Let’s discuss some things you need to know to ensure your child’s safety when anesthesia is needed.

 

Types of Anesthesia

Depending on whether your child’s procedure is major or minor, the surgeon may utilize anesthesia in one of three ways:

  • Local anesthesia—numbing only the local area where the surgery occurs. Your child will be awake, but the doctor might recommend a sedative to keep her calm.
  • Regional anesthesia—numbing a nerve cluster affecting a larger area of the body. Your child may be asleep for the procedure or under stronger sedatives.
  • General anesthesia—the patient is administered potent drugs to make him sleep through the procedure, under continuous monitoring of the anesthesiologist.

Of these three types, local anesthesia is the safest for your child, and general anesthesia (while still fairly safe today) requires more careful monitoring for side effects and complications.

 

Side Effects and Adverse Reactions

Common side effects of anesthesia include nausea, chills, sore throat or agitation when the medicine wears off. These symptoms are considered normal and may be treated with some medications when needed. In rare cases, a child may have a stronger reaction causing complications. These include:

  • Wheezing or breathing trouble
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nerve damage
  • Blindness (extremely rare)
  • Other allergic reactions to medications

Your anesthesiologist will monitor your child carefully for early warning signs of these complications, but if the doctor or anesthesiologist fails to advise you about the specific drugs being used and their risks—ask.

Additional Safety Tips with Anesthesia

  • Notify your doctor about any allergies the child has, and any medicines she is taking, before anesthesia is administered. This information may affect the choice of drugs used to protect your child against complications.
  • If your child is 3 years old or younger and requires a procedure requiring anesthesia for longer than three hours, talk to your surgeon about the risks. Studies have shown that “repeated and lengthy exposure” to anesthesia may affect brain development in small children.
  • If your child has a cold or congestion, ask your surgeon about rescheduling the procedure. Anesthesia can sometimes worsen cold symptoms, and the congestion may cause breathing difficulties while the child is under.

 

The practice of anesthesiology is safer now than ever before, and a good doctor and anesthesiologist should advise you of any potential risks and concerns for your child. However, if you believe your child has suffered harm due to improper use of anesthesia, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call our office for more information.