Kids’ bodies are different. Their anesthesia should be, too.

Children aren’t just small adults. Their bodies react differently to medicine, and they vary a lot more in size and shape, from the teeniest preemie to the tallest teen. So it’s crucial for their anesthesia — the medicine used to help patients feel no pain during surgery—to be managed by specialists who understand the unique needs of kids.

At Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, you’ll find almost 50 pediatric anesthesiologists who dedicate themselves to keeping young patients comfortable, calm and safe while administering anesthesia that’s right for them.

Complete anesthesia services are available for kids undergoing surgery and other procedures. We administer both general anesthesia, which helps kids sleep deeply and feel no pain, and regional anesthesia, which numbs an area of the body. We also provide IV sedation, which helps kids relax or sleep for a procedure. Whatever technique is used, it is always tailored to your child’s specific needs.

No pain = more gain

By working closely with the acclaimed surgeons at Children’s, the anesthesiology team helps young patients have the best possible surgery experience. Being kid-focused sets us apart:

  • Unique. We manage the whole spectrum of kids’ anesthesia needs and tailor the solutions to their situation. Every day, we work with babies, children and teens living with chronic diseases, disabilities, developmental delays and other conditions.
  • Calming. Children often start anesthesia by breathing medicine through a mask. Kids can pick the smell to breathe in the mask, such as strawberry, watermelon or bubble gum. Some also have the chance to fall asleep with twinkling lights before being taken into the operating room.
  • Personal. Before, during and after the procedure, we keep families informed. You may have the option of staying with your child while anesthesia is started. You can soothe your child until the medicine takes effect and be by his or her side as the sedation wears off after the procedure.

At Children’s, anesthesiologists also consult with the pain management team to help children control their pain through the use of anesthesia or sedation during invasive procedures — such as bone marrow tests and lumbar punctures.

Reducing the fear factor

Your child’s anesthesia team will meet with your family before the surgery or procedure to help all of you prepare. If you’re unsure how to explain anesthesia in kid-friendly terms, don’t worry, we have experts to help you. Our child life specialists are available to help your child understand and cope with the experience by utilizing age-appropriate strategies.

Knowing what to expect helps make anesthesia less stressful. And at Children’s, caring for your child’s emotional comfort is another crucial part of what we do.

Message to parents on concerns regarding anesthesia and the developing brain

Recently there has been a significant amount of attention in the general media and medical literature on the topic of the potential harmful effects of anesthesia on the developing brain of young children.  The effort to clarify this issue is being led by the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) and the US Food and Drug Administration.  The name given to this effort is called Strategies for Mitigating Anesthesia-Related NeuroToxicity in Tots or SmartTots. This is a multi‐year project designed to increase the safety of anesthesia drugs for infants and children. The focus of this effort is to fund, guide and bring together research that investigates the effects of existing anesthesia drugs on human brain development.  Findings from these studies will help establish the development of new practice guidelines and new anesthesia drugs.

The findings of this research to date are concerning and worth further research.  We would like parents and physicians to keep in mind that none of this information is as yet definitive.  The vast majority of children clearly recover well from anesthesia with no notable change to their development.  Most often, the delay of surgery very likely presents a greater risk to the child’s wellbeing.  Further research is clearly needed to determine the extent of this issue and we look forward to a full understanding of these questions over the coming years

Historically, the anesthesia community has been at the leading edge of patient safety efforts.  The SmartTots collaboration is a prime example of this priority and the anesthesia department at the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota strongly adheres to this ethic.  We pledge that we will continue to follow this issue closely and adjust our practice as information warrants.  We also pledge that the safety of your child will continue to be our most essential priority. The limitation of anesthesia exposure to the minimal necessary for comfort and safety will be part of those efforts.  Thank you for entrusting the care of your child to us.

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