By Pavithra Ranganathan, MD, and Cindy Kay Walden, RN, BSN

Knowing that your child needs to be sedated for a medical procedure is scary – for kids and parents. We’re here to help ease your fears and guide you through the process as comfortably as we can. Our highly-trained professionals use a wide variety of safe, advanced medications and very proficient monitoring technology to observe your child throughout the procedure and after they wake up.

What is anesthesia?
Anesthesia is the use of medicine to numb sensation and prevent pain during surgery or other procedures. It can be given as an injection or through inhaled gases or vapors. A combination of medications may be used to relieve anxiety, induce asleep, minimize pain, or block out any memory of the surgery.

Dr. Pavithra Ranganathan

What is a pediatric anesthesiologist?
A pediatric anesthesiologist is a specially-trained physician who gives numbing medication to children to block sensation in an area of the body or help a child fall asleep during surgery. The anesthesiologist observes your child's heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and oxygen level; continues to provide anesthesia; and makes sure your child is stable and comfortable throughout the procedure.

What types of anesthesia do children receive?
Depending on the type of procedure your child needs, the following may be used:

  • General anesthesia affects the whole body and helps your child fall into a deep sleep during an operation. Your child will have no memory of the surgery when they wake up. The anesthesia is given through an IV or a tube or mask. General anesthesia is used for major abdominal, heart, and minimally invasive surgery.
  • Local anesthesia impacts only a certain area of the body such as a patch of skin, a foot, or a hand. It can be given as a shot, spray, or ointment, and it is often used for minor outpatient or same-day surgery procedures.
  • Regional anesthesia is given by injection to numb a larger area of the body such as an arm, leg, or the abdomen.

Is there anything else I need to know about anesthesia?
While most people are aware of the comfort that an anesthesiologist can provide in the operating room, our outpatient pediatric sedation program is also available for more minor procedures and radiological studies that may be uncomfortable for your child. We can ease your child’s pain or anxiety with anesthesia for bone marrow biopsies, spinal taps, cuts and laceration repairs, kidney biopsies, muscle biopsies, CT scans (Computerized Tomography), MRIs, renal scans, and more. Lying still and flat for an MRI is difficult, even for adults, and our pediatric sedation program can help eliminate some of the discomfort for your child by allowing them to rest quietly through the procedure.

What will happen before my child is sedated?
A pediatric anesthesiologist will thoroughly discuss your child's medical history with you, listen to their breathing, heart, and lungs, and may order x-rays or blood tests to determine the best anesthetic medicine for your child’s needs. Answering the anesthesiologist's questions as carefully as possible is crucial to determine if anything could interact with or affect the anesthesia and how your child responds to it. Be sure to ask any questions you might have, so you and your child can address your concerns.

How can I help my child?
Giving your child reassurance and age-appropriate information about the procedure or surgery can help to ease their stress and anxiety. If they are receiving general anesthesia, let them know that they are being given medicine to keep them from feeling any pain. Avoid any fearful language like “being put to sleep” or “breathing in gas.” Instead, try more neutral phrases like “special medicine” or “deep sleep.” Let your child know where you will be during the entire procedure (waiting room, recovery room, etc.), and talk to your anesthesiologist to see if you are able to sit with your child until they fall asleep before the surgery.

What if my child is afraid of needles?
Our pediatric anesthesiologists can apply a local anesthetic to your child’s skin to remove the pain of the needle prick when starting an IV. Kids can also drink medication or inhale anesthetic to help them relax and feel sleepy before going into the operating room.

What do I need to know about my child’s recovery from general anesthesia?
The anesthesiologist and nurses will watch your child very closely to make sure they are transitioning smoothly from sedation to an awakened state. It may take up to an hour for your child to fully recover. Let your child know that it’s normal to feel sluggish or confused after surgery, you’re there for them, and it’s okay to tell the doctor if they feel any discomfort after the procedure. The doctor can give them medicine to help with any pain. You'll receive instructions for further recuperation at home and see your surgeon for a follow-up visit to make sure recovery is going smoothly.

To learn more or make an appointment, call 855-WVU-CARE.