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Travel After Anesthesia

Anesthesiologist talks with patient and family in hospital room

Ask your child's anesthesiologist for guidelines specific to your child. This includes travel guidelines.

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is medicine that keeps your child from feeling pain during a test or procedure. There are 3 types of anesthesia:

  • Local – Affects only the area near the procedure
  • Regional – Affects a larger area of the body
  • General – Causes your child to be fully asleep for a procedure

Your child may also receive "sedation." A sedative will not put your child to sleep. It will help them relax, and they will not remember much of the procedure. Your child might get local or regional anesthesia along with a sedative.

Risks of travel after anesthesia

Anesthesia can stay in your child’s body for 24 hours or more. During or after anesthesia, your child:

  • May have trouble breathing
  • May not be able to function normally
  • May become upset

If this happens while your child is traveling in a car or a plane, you will not be able to get your child the help they need right away.

When to travel after a minor procedure

In general, your child should be able to travel by car after being released from recovery. Your child should not fly until at least 4 hours after being released from recovery. You should stay on the hospital campus during that time. Check with your child's care team for guidelines specific to your child's procedure.

Minor procedures may include:

When to travel after a major procedure

Often, your child will be admitted to the hospital for an overnight stay after a major procedure. Or, they may be required to stay in housing near the hospital. Check with your child's care team for guidelines specific to your child.

Major procedures may include:

  • Surgery that involves a cut in the skin and other tissues
  • Procedures such as placing a central venous line or removing deep tissue organ samples

Special cases

If your child has severe health problems such as heart or breathing issues, talk to the doctor who gives anesthesia to find out when your child can safely leave.

Infants may need to follow special guidelines:

  • An infant who was born early and has a post-conceptual age (PCA) of less than 60 weeks should be admitted as an inpatient after anesthesia. To find the PCA, add the number of weeks the infant spent in the womb with the number of weeks after birth. A baby born at 30 weeks who is 8 weeks old has a PCA of 38 weeks. These infants are at risk for a condition called apnea, where breathing stops. Hospital staff must monitor them overnight after anesthesia or sedation. If they stop breathing at any time, the staff might need to monitor them for a longer period.
  • An infant who was not born early and has a PCA of less than 60 weeks must be monitored by staff for 6 hours after anesthesia or sedation.

Depending on your child’s health history, the doctor might decide to admit them as an inpatient. Check with the care team for guidelines specific to your child.

Key points

  • Anesthesia keeps your child from feeling pain during a test or procedure. There are 3 types: local, regional, and general.
  • Risks after anesthesia can include breathing problems and inability to function normally.
  • Check with your child's care team for guidelines on when it is safe for your child to travel after a procedure with anesthesia.
     


Reviewed: December 2022