If your child is having surgery or a procedure, it can help to understand how the
various types of anesthesia make the experience more comfortable.
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.
Think of the brain as a central computer that controls all the body's functions
and the nervous system as a network that relays messages back and forth from the brain
to different parts of the body. It does this via the spinal cord, which runs from
the brain down through the backbone and contains threadlike nerves that branch out
to every organ and body part.
Here's a look at what each kind of anesthesia does.
The goal is to make and keep a person completely unconscious (or "asleep") during
the operation, with no awareness or memory of the surgery. General anesthesia can
be given through an IV (which requires a needle stick into a vein, usually in the
arm) or by inhaling gases or vapors delivered by a mask or breathing 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.
With general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist uses a combination of various medications
keep your child asleep
minimize pain during surgery and relieve pain afterward (using drugs called analgesics)
relax the muscles, which helps to keep your child still
block out the memory of the surgery
After surgery, the anesthesiologist reverses the anesthesia process to help your
child "wake up." It usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour for kids to recover
from general anesthesia. This recovery period is monitored by specially trained nurses
in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) or recovery room. During recovery, your child
is still under the care of the anesthesiologist.
An anesthetic drug is injected near a cluster of nerves, numbing a larger area
of the body (such as below the waist).
Most children who receive regional anesthesia are deeply sedated or asleep for
the procedure. Rarely, older kids or those who might be at risk by being asleep may
be awake or lightly sedated for this type of anesthesia.
In kids, regional and general anesthesia are often combined, except in very special
circumstances. Regional anesthesia is generally used to make someone more comfortable
during and after the surgical procedure.
If regional anesthesia is appropriate for your child, you'll discuss this with
the anesthesiologist. The time required to recover from the numbing effect will vary
depending on the type of regional anesthetic used.
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).
With local anesthesia, a person is awake or sedated, depending on what's best for
Local anesthesia is often used for minor outpatient procedures (when patients come
in for surgery and can go home that same day). If your child is having an outpatient
surgery or procedure in a clinic or doctor's office (such as the dentist or dermatologist),
this is probably the type of anesthetic that will be used.
The medicine can numb the area during the procedure and for a short time afterward,
helping to control discomfort after surgery. The numbing medicine may wear off in
about 2-4 hours.
Will My Child Get a Needle?
Often, anesthesiologists may give children a sedative to help them feel sleepy
or relaxed before a procedure or surgery. Then, kids who are getting general anesthesia
may be given medication through a special breathing mask first and then be given an
IV after they're asleep. Why? Because many kids are afraid of needles and may have
a hard time staying still and calm. By using a breathing mask, kids can just breathe
themselves to sleep. This approach helps ease some anxiety about needles and the overall
procedure or surgery.
What Type of Anesthesia Will My Child Get?
The type and amount of anesthesia given will be specifically tailored to your child's
needs and will depend on various factors, including:
the type of surgery
the location of the surgery
how long the surgery may take
your child's current and previous medical condition
any allergies your child may have
previous reactions to anesthesia (in your child or family members)
medications your child is taking
your child's age, height, and weight
In some cases, you may be able to request which type of anesthesia your child gets.
The anesthesiologist can discuss the options available, but, ultimately, will make
the decision based on your child's individual needs and best interests./p>