Having surgery or a medical procedure can make anyone anxious. But when it’s your child, it adds a whole new level of anxiety, and that’s normal. Your child’s anesthesia provider wi­ll help ensure your child is safe, and as comfortable as possible.

Some children need medicine to help calm them before surgery, while others do not. Your anesthesia provider will work closely with you and your child to determine what would be most helpful. If your child requires a general anesthesia, rest assured that once your little one enters the operating room, he/she will soon be fast asleep. Depending on what works best for your child, medication that causes loss of consciousness will either be injected through an IV line or inhaled through a mask. After complete loss of consciousness, an IV and breathing tube are then placed, if needed.

It’s hard to predict how long your child will take to recover from anesthesia or surgery. Some children experience confusion upon awakening from anesthesia that is called emergence delirium. This is a temporary stage your child may go through where they can be confused to the point of agitation. As soon as your child is stable, every effort will be made to reconnect you with your child, as children are often best consoled by those who know them best.

Will my child need an IV catheter?

Unlike adults, most children under the age of 10 may be safely put to sleep with a simple oxygen mask and anesthetic gas. For some procedures (such as ear tubes) the IV catheter is not required but available if we feel that your child would benefit from fluid or IV medications. For most other procedures, the IV is placed (usually in the hand or foot) after your child is completely asleep.

When will I be able to see my child after surgery?

After general anesthesia, your child will be in the primary recovery room until the doctors and nurses are comfortable that the effect of the anesthesia is wearing off and your child’s vital signs are stable (usually 5-30 minutes). If your child is going home, then he or she will be brought to the secondary recovery room where you can spend time together until the time of discharge.

Is anesthesia safe for young children?

You may have heard or read about some concerns that anesthesia could negatively affect the developing brain of a young child or fetus. These issues were raised because some laboratory experiments done on baby animals showed that anesthesia affected their brain development. This does not mean that the same thing happens in human children. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to determine cause and effect relationships in biological systems. Many studies have been done trying to determine if anesthesia can have a negative effect on young children; but so far, no studies have proven or disproven that this happens.

More research is still being done to try to find the answer. Until then, the experts who study this issue recommend that the parents and the child’s doctors discuss the benefits of a proposed surgery, the timing of when it can and should be done, and risks of surgery and anesthesia. Emergency and urgent surgeries need to happen. Elective or semi-elective surgeries may be able to be postponed until the child is older. All of these issues need to be weighed against each other to make a decision for the child knowing that modern medicine still does not have the perfect answer for young children at this time.

More information can be found at and on the FDA website.