anesthesia - what to expect

Surgery is serious and can be scary — for parents and children alike. Part of the anxiety comes from not knowing what will happen. We have developed this page, which explains the anesthesia process, to help you and your child feel more comfortable.

When your child needs surgery or another procedure, he or she will be given anesthesia. Anesthesia is when the child is "asleep" for the procedure.

the night before

Depending on the type of anesthesia, your child should not eat or drink starting at midnight the night before the procedure, but the surgeons office or anesthesiologist may give you specific instructions. You will also receive instructions about which medications or supplements to continue and which not to give to your child the night before the procedure.

These instructions are very important to follow in order to prevent your child from experiencing nausea, vomiting or aspirating during the procedure.

at the hospital

You and your child will meet with the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and/or the surgical nurse before the procedure. At that time, the anesthesiologist will explain the procedure to you, perform a physical examination of your child, and review your child's medical history, including:

  • Your child's current and past health
  • Your family's health history
  • Any medications, vitamins, and supplements your child takes, including the dosage and frequency
  • Any medication allergies
  • Any adverse reactions that your child or family has had to previous anesthesia

You will also have the opportunity to ask your care team questions during this period, such as:

  • What kind of anesthesia your child will be given?
  • How the anesthesia will be given, such as injected into a vein or inhaled?
  • How long the procedure might take?
  • How soon after the procedure you can see your child?
  • If your child will feel any pain or discomfort after the procedure?
  • How soon your child can go home?
  • How soon your child might return to school and normal activities?

during surgery

If your child will receive general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will help your child make the transition from the normal awake state to the anesthetized sleep state either by injecting medication into a vein (intravenous or IV) or by having your child breathe in the anesthetic via a mask. For children who are afraid of needles, anesthesiologists often first use a mask and once the child is sleepy and relaxed, he or she may then use IV anesthesia.

During the procedure, the anesthesiologist will monitor your child's vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure and continue to deliver anesthesia. To help your child breathe during general anesthesia, the anesthesiologist may use a plastic tube (endotracheal tube) that is placed down your child's throat to help him or her breathe.

after surgery

Once the procedure is complete, the anesthesiologist will reverse the process so your child will regain consciousness. Your child will then be taken to a recovery area where the nurses and the anesthesiologist will monitor your child's condition closely to make sure he or she is making a smooth transition from the anesthesia. When your child is awake, you will be allowed to visit him or her.

Your child may not seem fully awake immediately if he or she received general anesthesia. It can take between 45 minutes to 1 hour for him or her to fully recover from general anesthesia. Numbing medications for local anesthesia may take from 2 to 4 hours to wear off.

Your child's reaction to the procedure can vary from groggy, confused, cold, sick to the stomach, scared, or sad when he or she wakes up. Your child may also experience some pain or discomfort after the procedure, which the anesthesiologist can relieve through medication.

going home

For outpatient or same-day procedures, children can often go home after recovering from anesthesia. If overnight hospitalization is necessary however, you or another family member will be allowed to stay with your child.

Before your child goes home, a member of his or her care team will provide you with instructions for your child's recovery, including what you can do to make your child as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

Call the hospital or the surgeon's office if your child:

  • Has unusual bleeding from the surgical site
  • Has a fever more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Has unusual redness on or discharge from the surgical site
  • Has unusual pain
  • Has trouble keeping food down

At Bon Secours, we treat children like they were our own. You can rest assured that your child is in the hands of compassionate, caring professionals who will provide the best care possible, with the goal of making your child well.

good sharing

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System