General Anaesthetic in Children

A general anaesthetic means that the child is asleep for the procedure, and will not feel pain and distress.

Is a general anaesthetic safe?

Parents often ask about the safety of a general anaesthetic. General anaesthetics do have potential risks, but on the whole the chances of anything untoward occurring are extremely small. If your child is at higher risk, this will be discussed with you to help you make an informed decision. Doctors will not suggest surgery and a general anaesthetic unless it is necessary, so it is important to remember that the surgery and anaesthetic are being done for a reason and not on a whim.

Similarly, when you are making decisions, remember that any procedure and anaesthetic carries risks, so before proceeding you need to be happy that this is the right course of action. Sometimes this decision can be easy, because it is the only life-saving option, but other times it can be much more difficult to decide.

Needle or gas?

The anaesthetist will discuss the anaesthetic with you on the day of surgery. Depending on what is required, the anaesthetic may be administered using a mask until the child falls asleep, or alternatively a plastic needle / cannula will be inserted into the hand and an anaesthetic injection given through there. Both are equally valid options, but the anaesthetist may feel that one is better for your child than the other. If both are an option for you then you will likely be given a choice, but if only one is suitable the anaesthetist will tell you why.

If your child is very anxious or finds it difficult to engage with treatments, then sometimes a sedative (called pre-med) may be given. If you are worried that your child may struggle, please let your medical team know.