Anaesthesia for a child





Being told that your child needs surgery and an anaesthetic is a very worrying experience for all parents.


Before your operation I will assess your child and the surgery they are having and discuss with you and your child a suitable option for the anaesthetic. I will be responsible for giving the anaesthetic and caring for your child during the surgery and straight after.




What are the risks of anaesthesia?


Modern anaesthesia is very safe but every has anaesthetic has a risk of side effects and complications. Whilst usually these are temporary some may cause a long-term problem.


The risks to your child will depend on whether your child has any other illness like asthma and personal factors, such as whether your child is overweight; time taken for the surgery and how simple or complex the surgery is.


Common side effects and complications are;

• Nausea or vomiting

• Headache

• Pain and/or bruising at injection sites

• Sore or dry throat and lips

• Problems in passing urine.


Less common side effects and complications of anaesthesia

• Muscle aches and pains

• Weakness

• Mild allergic reaction - itching or rash

• Temporary nerve damage.


Uncommon side effects and complications from anaesthesia

• Being awake under general anaesthetic

• Damage to teeth (especially baby teeth)

• Damage to the voice box and cords, which may cause a temporary hoarse voice

• Allergic reactions and/or asthma

• Damage to nerves and pressure areas

• Epileptic seizure

• Chest infection

• Permanent nerve damage due to the needle when giving an injection or due to pressure on a nerve during surgery

• Worsening of an existing medical condition.


Rare risks which may cause death

• Severe allergy or shock

• Very high temperature

• Vomit in the lungs (pneumonia)

• Brain damage.


Risks are increased if your child:

− smokes

− is overweight.

− has a bad cold or flu, asthma or other chest disease

− has diabetes

− has heart disease

− has kidney disease

− has other serious medical conditions.


What are the risks of a regional anaesthetic?

* Rarely, damage to nearby structures (eg blood vessels, lungs).

* Nerve damage, due to bleeding, infection or other causes, is an extra specific risk with regional anaesthesia. This may cause weakness and/ or numbness of the body part that the nerve goes to. This is usually mild and only lasts a short time. Rarely, nerve damage, may be severe and permanent.


With an epidural or spinal this may cause paralysis of the lower half of the body (paraplegia) or all of the body (quadriplegia). Extra specific risks with spinal and epidural anaesthesia are:

• Headache. Usually temporary but may be severe and can last many days.

• Backache. This is usually temporary due to bruising around the injection site. Rarely can it be long-term.

• Problems in passing urine. This is usually temporary.


What your child needs to do before an operation

* Increase their fitness before their surgery (if possible). This improves their blood circulation and lung health.

* If you are breast feeding your child and drink alcohol, you need to stop drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours before your child’s surgery.

* If your child smokes, they need to stop smoking at least 6 weeks before surgery to give their lungs and heart a chance to improve. Smoking reduces the oxygen in your blood and increases breathing problems during and after an operation.

* If your child drinks any alcohol they need to stop for at least 24 hours before surgery as alcohol may alter the affect of the anaesthetic drugs. * If your child takes any recreational drugs, this includes recreational smoking such as marijuana they need to stop before surgery as these may affect the anaesthetic. If your child has a drug addiction please tell your anaesthetist.


Recovery from surgery


After the operation, the nursing staff in the Recovery Area will watch your child closely until they are fully conscious. Your child will then be returned to the ward or Day Procedure Area where they will rest until they are recovered enough for you to take them home.


Tell the nurse if your child has any of the following symptoms such as pain, headache, nausea, or vomiting. The nurse will be able to give your child some medication to help.


Things for your child to avoid after general anaesthesia


A general anaesthetic will affect your child’s judgment for about 24 hours. For your child’s safety they must:

• NOT drive or ride a bike, scooter, tractors or other farm machinery.

• NOT operate machinery including cooking implements.

• NOT make important decisions such as withdrawal of money from the ATM machine.

• NOT drink alcohol, smoke or take any recreational drugs, this includes recreational smoking such as marijuana. They may react with the anaesthetic drugs.

• Have an adult with them on the first night after surgery. ​