Consensus Statement FAQs for Parents & the PublicFrequently Asked Questions
FAQ’s for Parents & the Public Preguntas frecuentes para los padres y el Público
What are the concerns about anesthetics and children?
How did doctors become aware of the problem?
If anesthetics cause problems in animals, will they cause similar problems in people?
Why might my child need anesthesia or sedation?
The most common procedures for young children requiring sedation or anesthesia include ear tubes for chronic ear infection, tonsillectomy, hernia repair, and circumcision, all procedures that typically last less than 60 minutes. Many children need anesthesia or sedation for procedures requiring the child to stay still (MRI, some types of X-ray) or may be briefly painful (broken bones or sutures). Children may also need surgery or sedation for less common conditions.
What should I do if my child needs surgery or a procedure requiring anesthesia or sedation?
Parents and caregivers should discuss the risks, benefits, and timing of surgery and procedures requiring anesthetics and sedative drugs with your child’s health care providers. Other than delaying the exposure to anesthetics and sedatives until the child is older, there are no proven ways to mitigate the possible effects. Additionally, for most surgical procedures, there are currently no realistic alternatives to the medications used for general anesthesia. Untreated pain is known to be harmful in children and to the developing nervous system.
For necessary non-surgical procedures where pain management is not an issue, it may be worthwhile to explore alternatives to anesthesia or sedation.
Should I consider putting off a needed procedure until my child is older?
Children do not generally undergo surgical procedures that require anesthesia unless the surgery is essential to their health. Therefore, postponing a necessary procedure may itself cause problems and would not be an option for the majority of children. For example, children with chronic ear infections may have delays in the development of speech related to problems with hearing. Surgery to treat this problem may improve learning whereas a delay may result in long-term difficulties in the normal development of speech. Parents of children requiring surgery should consult a qualified professional for advice about their child’s situation.
Is one anesthetic or sedative better or worse?
No, all commonly used sedatives and anesthetics have been implicated in animal studies.
Where can I learn more?
A multitude of resources can be found at Smarttots.org, including information about the latest research studies, newsletter articles and scientific presentations. You may also sign up to receive updates on the latest research at Smarttots.org/resources.
How can I help?
SmartTots funds research necessary to make anesthesia safer for children around the world. Your generous donation will make a dramatic impact to help make this research possible. For your convenience, SmartTots has a number of giving options available – visit Smarttots.org/donate for the option that best suits your needs.
Pediatric Health Blog
Dr. Dean Andropoulos, Chief of Anesthesiology
Texas Children’s Hospital
Questions and Myths-Mayo Clinic
Dr. Randall Flick at Mayo Clinic “debunks myths” and answers common questions raised by parents in regard to anesthesia.