“Will going under anesthesia hurt my child?” Every anesthesiologist and surgeon has been asked this question. Even though anesthesia is much safer today than ever before, every anesthesia exposure and surgery has an element of risk. In fact, it may be difficult to separate the risks of anesthesia from the risks of the surgery or medical procedure itself. Anesthesia is used to take away the pain and discomfort from your child and make it easier for a procedure to be accomplished in the best way possible. These benefits must be weighed against the risks of anesthesia itself.
The specific risks of anesthesia are like that of any medication. Each type of anesthetic has a specific set of risks and side effects associated with it. Your anesthesiologist will talk to you about the various types of anesthesia that may be used for your child and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a safety announcement regarding the potential effect of anesthetics on children younger than 3 years of age, which includes:
- A single, short exposure to anesthesia appears to be safe
- There is some evidence that longer (>3 hours) or repeated exposures could have negative effects on behavior or learning
- Much more research is needed
Because anesthesia or sedation is necessary during most procedures to keep your child safe and comfortable, discuss the following items with your doctor before your procedure.
- Should the procedure be done now or when the child is older?
- How long is the procedure expected to take?
- Will repeated or additional procedures be needed?
Should you have questions regarding anesthesia for your child, there are a number of resources available to you.