Possible Effects Of General Anesthesia on Children

It is no news that getting an operation can be stressful for both kids and adults. If you have a child that is scheduled for surgery, a lot of questions may run through your mind concerning anesthesia. You may get unnerved thinking about your child being temporarily unconscious or losing his sensation. It is essential to know a few things about anesthesia to help answer your questions and ease some of the concerns you may have about your child.

About anesthesia

Anesthesia refers to the use of medications to reduce or prevent painful sensations during surgical operations or other procedures that elicits a great deal of pain (stitching for instance). Anesthesia is usually given via injection or may be inhaled. They are of different types and may affect the nervous system by blocking the transmission of nerve impulses, and by extension, pain.

In modern day hospitals and surgical centers, well-trained professionals make use of safe, modern medications and technology to effectively monitor anesthesia. Administration and management of anesthetic is done by an anesthesiologist. Anesthetics on the other hand are drugs that numb an area of the body and help a person fall or stay asleep. Children are cared for by a pediatric anesthesiologist. Aside administering anesthetics and preparing your child for surgery, other roles of the pediatric anesthesiologist includes:

  • Monitoring the child’s vital signs such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm and body temperature.
  • Solving problems that may arise during surgery.
  • Management of pain borne experienced by the child after surgery.
  • Keeping the child comfortable during and after the surgery.

Assistance may be rendered by other healthcare professionals such as trained certified registered nurse, or student nurse anesthetist. These staff do work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist. In some cases, they may work on their own. It all depends on the health care facility.

Types of anesthesia

There are three major categories of anesthesia – general, regional and local. These may be administered in a variety of ways using medicines that affect the nervous system.

The brain can be seen as a central computer that controls all bodily activities. It works in conjunction with the spinal cord. The spinal cord contains nerves, with the appearance of a thread that branch out to every body organ and tissue.

In general anesthesia, your child is kept completely unconscious all through the operation. This implies that he or she has no feeling of awareness, pain, movement or memory of the surgical operation. General anesthesia are usually administered intravenously, by someone li Dr. Robert St. Thomas. Sometimes, they may be inhaled.

Regional anesthesia is administered near a group of nerves, thus numbing a large body region. In most cases, children who receive regional anesthesia fall asleep all through the procedure. Older kids may be at risk of falling asleep. In most cases, they may be awake or sedated lightly for this type of anesthesia.

In local anesthesia, just a small part of the body is anesthetized. Based on the body region, the anesthesia may be given as an ointment, a shot, or a spray. Under local anesthesia, the child may be sedated, awake or asleep. Children who are booked for outpatient procedures or minor surgeries usually have this type of anesthesia. If your child’s surgery is taking place in a dentist or dermatologist office, then this type of anesthetic may be used.

Sometimes before an anesthetic is administered, your child may be given a sedative to help him feel relaxed or sleepy. This is essential as many kids have a pathologic fear of needles and may have a hard time staying calm or still.

The amount of anesthesia required will depend on a number of factors such as your child’s weight and age, the area to be operated upon, the type of surgery to be carried out, and whether or not your child has other medical conditions and allergies.

Possible effects

Your child will have a groggy and disoriented feeling, and may be somewhat confused after waking from the surgery. Other possible effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakiness or chills
  • Sore throat

What are the risks involved?

Anesthesia is very safe in modern times. Complications in children arises only in rare cases. Such complications include breathing problems, abnormal heart rhythms, allergic reactions to certain medications and sometime death in extreme cases. Risks are dependent on the kind of procedure, the patient’s health condition, and they type of anesthesia. Ensure you consult your child’s pediatrician, or anesthesiologist about any issues.

If the child is less than three years of age and is to receive a general anesthesia or be sedated for at least three hours, then you’ll need to talk to the doctor about risks of brain development. Use of general anesthesia for longer than three hours has been linked to problems with brain development in children.  According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, giving an anesthesia in a woman’s third trimester of pregnancy could harm the brain development of the fetus.

If a child under three is in need of a general anesthesia, the parents should ask the healthcare provider about:

  • What risks are related to brain development
  • The surgery timeline, and whether a delay may cause health problems
  • Whether there is need for repeated surgeries or not.

Women in their third trimester of pregnancy who need a general anesthesia should be sure to find out the possible effects it has on the brain development of their babies.

According to the FDA, surgeries for toddlers and infants that use sedation or general anesthesia for a brief and single period will not interfere with brain development. However, more research is needed on this subject.

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