Information for Parents about Anesthesia

It may help to ease some of your concerns to understand how the various types of anesthesia work to make the experience more comfortable for your child.

Anesthesia is broken down into three main categories: general, regional and local, all of which affect the nervous system in some way and can be administered using various methods and different medications.

Here's a basic look at each type of anesthesia:

General Anesthesia

The goal is to make and keep a child completely unconscious (or “asleep”) during the operation, with no sensations, pain, awareness or memory of the surgery. General anesthesia can be given through an IV or by inhaling gases or vapors by breathing into a mask or tube.

If your child is having general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will be there before, during and after the operation to monitor the anesthetic medications and ensure your child is constantly receiving the right dose.

Regional Anesthesia

An anesthetic drug is injected near a cluster of nerves, numbing a large area of the body.

In kids, regional and general anesthesia are often combined, except in very special circumstances.

Regional anesthesia is generally used to make your child more comfortable during and after the surgical procedure.

Local Anesthesia

An anesthetic drug (which can be given as a shot, spray or ointment) numbs only a small specific area of the body (for example a foot, hand or patch of skin). The numbing medicine will wear off in two to four hours.

Will My Child Get a Shot?

Often, anesthesiologists may give children medicine to help them feel relaxed before surgery. Kids who are getting general anesthesia may be given a medicine through a special breathing mask first and then given an IV after they're asleep.

On the day of surgery, your anesthesiologist will meet with you to discuss any questions or concern you and your child may have. Sometimes, illness such as colds may cause problems during surgery. For the safety of your child, your anesthesiologist may feel it is best to postpone surgery until your child is healthy.