Anesthesia and your child


“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.

Texas Children’s Hospital Department of Anesthesiology


Society for Pediatric Anesthesia

FDA Statement on Pediatric Anesthesia


About Dr. Dean B. Andropoulos, Anesthesiologist-in-Chief

I am the Anesthesiologist-in-Chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, and professor and vice chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Baylor College of Medicine. I have authored over 70 publications and 30 book chapters, and I am the editor of two major textbooks on pediatric anesthesiology. I have held a number of national leadership positions, including as founding president of the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society. My research is partly funded by the National Institutes of Health, and focuses on the effects of anesthesia and surgery on the developing central nervous system. I am proud to lead a department at the cutting edge of pediatric anesthesiology where patients are our focus.
Posted in 101, Anesthesiology

One Response to Anesthesia and your child

  1. Carmen Watrin says:

    Thank-you for sharing your wisdom and guidance.

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