- How will the anaesthetic be given?
- What happens after the procedure?
- What are the risks of anaesthesia?
- Can my child eat and drink before the procedure?
- What should I bring?
- How can I explain anaesthesia to my child?
Q. How will the anaesthetic be given?
Younger children usually breathe the anaesthetic through a mask to help them "fall asleep". While not painful, some children are anxious about this process, and we encourage one parent to stay until your child is asleep to provide reassurance. If your child is not cooperative, we may ask you to help by giving them a cuddle. After they are asleep, the anaesthetist will put a drip in to give medications and fluids.
Older children may have numbing cream applied to the back of their hand or elbows. Instead of using a mask, a drip is placed in the numb skin, and they are then given medication through it to fall asleep. This is usually more pleasant in this age group as the anaesthetic gas can smell unpleasant to older kids.
Regardless of the method, it typically takes less than a minute for children to fall asleep. As soon as they are asleep, someone will show you out of the operating room so we can focus on caring for your child.
Q. What happens after the procedure?
Your child will be taken to the recovery room where they are monitored and kept comfortable by a nurse. You can see them when they are awake.
Some children take longer to wake than others, which is normal, and in some cases desirable. Younger children may wake upset despite being comfortable, but this usually settles down quickly.
Q. What are the risks of anaesthesia?
Due to extensive specialist medical training, as well as modern equipment and medications, anaesthesia undertaken in Australia is very safe. There is, however, a level of risk associated with every part of our daily lives, and undergoing anaesthesia for a procedure is no different.
Uncommonly, your child may experience nausea and vomiting after their procedure. Should your child have vomiting, allow an hour to pass before giving fluids slowly, and building up to solid food. Dental damage and a sore throat related to insertion of breathing devices is also uncommon.
Your child may wake up in an agitated or upset condition from an anaesthetic, unrelated to any pain or discomfort. This is common, particularly in children aged 2 to 6. This will usually settle over the first hour and does not require any further intervention aside from support and reassurance from a parent.
Your child will be given pain medication while they are asleep to help with their comfort after the procedure. They will be given further medication if they are sore in the recovery room. If you are going home after your child's procedure, your anaesthetist will discuss and arrange appropriate pain medications for you to use at home.
Serious adverse effects, such as those that will cause permanent injury or threat to life, are very rare in children undergoing anaesthesia. Should your child be at an increased risk, your anaesthetist will discuss this with you after assessing your child.
Q. Can my child eat and drink before the procedure?
Food and drink in the stomach is a safety risk when undergoing anaesthesia. While we appreciate that withholding food and fluid from children can be stressful, it is important that you follow the following guidelines.
Child under 6 months of age:
Morning procedure - Finish breast feeds by 0500 or formula by 0400. Your child may have water until they arrive at the hospital.
Afternoon procedure - FFinish breast feeds by 1000 or formula by 0900. Your child may have water until they arrive at the hospital.
Child over 6 months of age:
Morning procedure - Finish all food by 0200. This includes milk products (including breast milk and formula) and orange juice. Please encourage children to have clear fluids (water, cordial, clear apple juice) until they arrive at the hospital.
Afternoon procedure - Finish all food by 0700. This includes milk products (including breast milk and formula) and orange juice. Please encourage children to have clear fluids (water, cordial, clear apple juice) until they arrive at the hospital.
Q. What should I bring?
You should bring any comfort items that your child usually likes, including dummies, special blankets or teddy bears. A change of clothes for smaller children is also a good idea.
Bottle feeds and favourite snacks for after their procedure will help children feel comfortable. Please remember that it is important for your child's safety that they do not eat prior to their surgery, so ensure these are hidden away and not accessible.
Q. How can I explain anaesthesia to my child?
The following video is a helpful way to explain what will happen when children come to hospital for surgery: