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Anesthesia is the use of medicines that change signals to the brain to alter consciousness, block sensations of pain, and relieve anxiety to enable patients to safely and comfortably undergo diagnostic tests, medical procedures, surgery and other treatments. Children may also be given medicine to help them relax or sleep during medical tests and procedures.
In pediatric cancer, anesthesia may be used during:
Depending on the type of procedure and patient needs, anesthesia may be used to:
The goal of anesthesia is to keep patients safe and comfortable before, during, and after tests and medical procedures.
Anesthesiology is the medical practice of anesthesia. A doctor trained to give anesthesia and monitor patients is called an anesthesiologist. Other key anesthesia specialists include Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs).
There are three main types of anesthesia: general, regional, and local.
The medicines used during anesthesia depend on several factors:
NPO instructions provide guidelines on when to stop having food or drink before anesthesia. NPO is short for a Latin phrase which means “nothing by mouth”. Patients will be told not to eat or drink for a period of time before procedures. This is important to keep patients safe. Having anything in the stomach during anesthesia puts patients at risk for getting food or liquid in the lungs. Even chewing gum or sucking on hard candy could delay procedures. Families should also talk to the care team about the child’s medicines. The care team may recommend changes to medications before or after anesthesia. It is important to take medicines exactly as instructed.
The anesthesia care team takes important steps to ensure the safety of patients. However, there are risks with anesthesia. Usually, side effects are minor and go away on their own. After sedation, patients may be drowsy, have a headache, or feel nauseated. General anesthesia may cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, feeling cold, chills, sleepiness, trouble thinking, and loss of coordination or balance during recovery.
Other complications may be more serious. Certain medicines can cause heart, blood pressure and breathing problems in some patients. Learn about a reaction called malignant hyperthermia. Patients who have serious medical conditions are at higher risk for problems related to anesthesia. Anesthesia specialists anticipate risks and take steps to minimize them. The anesthesia team will closely monitor patients during anesthesia and recovery.
The anesthesia team takes important steps to minimize risks of anesthesia. These include:
Families should talk with their anesthesia providers about the anesthesia plan and what to expect. A child life specialist may also work with the medical team to help children prepare for anesthesia. It is also important for families to follow instructions from the care team to minimize risk and help things go smoothly.
Reviewed: June 2018