Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Learning About General Anesthesia in Children
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Learning About General Anesthesia in Children

What is general anesthesia in children?

General anesthesia is medicine that causes your child to become unconscious. It affects the whole body. It helps your child be unaware and not feel any pain during a procedure. An anesthesia professional will watch your child closely. They'll make sure your child stays safe and comfortable.

How is it done?

Your child may first be given some medicine to help them relax. Then anesthesia medicine may be inhaled through a mask or given through a needle in a vein.

An anesthesia specialist will adjust your child's medicines as needed. They will watch closely to keep your child comfortable and safe. A soft tube or other device in the back of your child's throat may be used to give your child an inhaled medicine and oxygen. It may also be used to help your child's breathing.

What are the risks?

Anesthesia is very safe in healthy children. The risk of serious problems is low. The most common reaction is nausea and vomiting after the procedure.

Some health conditions increase the risk of problems. Your child's anesthesia provider will find out about any health problems your child has. They'll talk to you about how those could affect your child's care.

Rare but serious risks include:

  • Breathing problems.
  • Reactions to the medicines used.
  • Death.

Research is being done on possible effects of anesthesia on brain development in children under 3. If you have concerns about your child having anesthesia, talk to your doctor.

How do you prepare?

You will get a list of instructions to help you prepare. They will cover things like when your child needs to stop eating, drinking, or breastfeeding. If your child has a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, make sure they use it.

Your child's anesthesia specialist will tell you what to expect. They'll cover what happens when you get to the hospital, during the procedure, and after. And they will talk with you about the risks and benefits of anesthesia. If you have questions, be sure to ask.

Some children may be nervous before they have anesthesia or a procedure. It can help to calmly explain to your child what they can expect at the hospital. And let them pick out things to bring to the hospital that can help comfort them.

If your child still seems nervous, ask your doctor about ways to help your child relax. These may include relaxation exercises or medicine.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.