Here are answers to some of the most common questions our doctors get about anesthesia. We encouraged you to talk with your doctor if you have additional questions that aren’t answered here.

What is an anesthesiologist?

An anesthesiologist is a medical doctor that has completed an anesthesiology residency and is board certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). A pediatric anesthesiologist has completed an additional year of pediatric anesthesia training and is board certified in pediatric anesthesia.

What type of professional is allowed to administer anesthesia?

Anesthesiologists, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, Anesthesia Assistants and some dentists can administer anesthesia.

Why is it important to consider your child’s anesthesiologist in addition to their surgeon?

When choosing an anesthesiologist, it is important to know the level of training and experience the anesthesiologist has had with children. The anesthesiologist should be certified by the American Board of Anesthesiology and practice in a facility that is experienced in caring for children.

Some anesthesiologists specialize by participating in a pediatric anesthesia fellowship. It is generally recommended that anesthesiologists with this fellowship and experience in pediatrics treat complex, critically ill and very young children.

What are the different types of anesthesia and what’s the difference?

  • General anesthesia is the most common type used for surgery. It’s a controlled, reversible state of unconsciousness.
  • Monitored anesthesia care, or conscious sedation, is a lighter form of anesthesia for diagnostic or minimally painful procedures.
  • Regional anesthesia involves injecting local anesthetics to block nerve pathways. This is typically used with general anesthesia for pain control after an operation.
  • Spinal anesthesia involves injecting local anesthetic into the lower back to block nerve pathways. It is sometimes used for premature babies needing lower abdominal or pelvic surgery.

What is the general policy at Dell Children’s Medical Center about anesthesia?

Only anesthesiologists certified in pediatric anesthesiology can provide care at Dell Children’s Medical Center. We currently have 17 pediatric anesthesiologists on staff through Capitol Anesthesiology Association.

What is the general policy at Seton Healthcare Family about anesthesia?

Children may be cared for at facilities other than Dell Children’s Medical Center in the Seton Family of Hospitals if the procedures are straightforward and do not have any other serious medical problems. Generally, the procedures at other Seton facilities are limited to outpatient surgeries. Children under the age of 15 are not typically admitted for an overnight stay at other Seton facilities.

What factors should a health professional consider before administering anesthesia?

Anesthesiologists evaluate all children prior to surgery. The patient’s age, general health and medical problems are evaluated along with the type of surgery that is to be performed.

What is the earliest age at which a child should be put under anesthesia?

The risk of anesthesia is highest in children under one year of age. Anesthesia in this age group should only be provided by experienced professionals.

There is concern that general anesthesia and sedation may have adverse effects on the developing brain. Animal studies have shown exposure to anesthesia in early life may cause injury to the brain. Human studies have so far been inconclusive.

Currently, initial results from human trials comparing general anesthesia versus spinal anesthesia in infants show no difference in effects on the brain between the groups at age two. These results are encouraging, but researchers need more data to understand the risks. Since there is no alternative to general anesthesia for most surgeries, physicians and parents should weigh the risks versus benefits of postponing surgery until a child is older.

What should patients expect after having anesthesia?

It is normal for patients to be drowsy after anesthesia. Other common side effects include pain, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

Nausea and vomiting occurs about 30 percent of the time if no preventative medicines are given. About 13 percent of children have excitement, delirium, and agitation when coming out of anesthesia. Other side effects include sore throat, pain, drowsiness, dental injury, and emotional shifts.

What are the risks of undergoing anesthesia?

Anesthesia is very safe. The most common risks are nausea, vomiting, sore throat, drowsiness, and excitement, delirium, or agitation when coming out of anesthesia. The risk of a serious injury or death from anesthesia is around 0.01 to 0.001 percent. Generally, patients under one year of age or with complex medical problems have a higher risk of adverse events from anesthesia compared to healthy children.