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Anesthesia is the use of medicines to prevent pain and discomfort during some medical tests, procedures, surgery, and other treatments.
Anesthesia may be used to:
The goal of anesthesia is to keep patients safe and comfortable before, during, and after tests and medical procedures.
A doctor trained to give anesthesia and monitor patients is called an anesthesiologist. A nurse who has advanced training in anesthesia is called a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).
There are 3 main types of anesthesia: general, regional, and local.
The medicines used during anesthesia depend on several factors:
Before your child has general anesthesia, the care team will:
Talk with your child’s anesthesia providers about the anesthesia plan and what to expect. A child life specialist may also work with the medical team to help your child prepare for anesthesia. Be sure to follow the care team’s instructions to help things go smoothly.
Patients are usually told not to eat or drink for a certain time before having general anesthesia. This is known as fasting guidelines or “NPO.” NPO is short for a Latin phrase that means “nothing by mouth.”
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 be a risk and cause a delay in the procedure.
Talk to the care team about your child’s other medicines. The care team may suggest changes to medicines before or after anesthesia.
Always follow the care team’s instructions. This is important to keep patients safe.
The risks of anesthesia depend on the type of anesthesia and procedure.
Usually, side effects of anesthesia are minor and go away on their own.
After general anesthesia, your child may:
Other complications may be more serious. Certain medicines can cause heart, blood pressure, and breathing problems in some patients. A serious reaction that may occur if you have a rare gene change is malignant hyperthermia.
Patients who have serious medical conditions have a higher risk for problems related to general anesthesia. The anesthesia team watches patients closely before, during, and after anesthesia.
Anesthesia is safe for most patients. But health care providers try to limit the use of general anesthesia in children. This is because too much general anesthesia could affect brain development, especially for children under age 3.
Talk to your care team about anesthesia options. There might be other ways to help your child stay still and manage anxiety during certain procedures such as imaging tests.
Reviewed: July 2023