Safety of Anaesthesia in Children
All of our anaesthetists are experts in their field. They provide a safe environment for your child during their operation. The anaesthetist is by your child’s side for the duration of the procedure monitoring breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels. Unexpected events, although rare, may occur during any procedure, but due to their training, your child’s anaesthetist will ensure that your child remains safe.
As with any procedure, anaesthesia has a spectrum of potential risks and side effects. Listed below is a brief outline of common, and less common but serious side effects. These are listed to inform you and not to alarm you. The chance of a severe complication from anaesthesia is rare, especially if your child is essentially well without serious medical problems.
Side Effects of General Anaesthesia
Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting has many potential triggers. Type of surgery, reaction to certain medication, anxiety, being prone to motion sickness – all these factors tend to affect the likelihood of nausea and vomiting following a procedure. Your anaesthetist has access to special types of medication that can help prevent vomiting, but despite their use, there is always a risk that your child will still become sick after an anaesthetic.
Your anaesthetist’s aim is to make your child as comfortable as possible following a procedure. Children however, vary with their pain relief requirements and the way they exhibit pain. If your child wakes with pain in recovery, they will be given extra pain relief quickly.
Every child has a unique personality. The way they wake from general anaesthesia varies from child to child and from procedure to procedure. Some children are slow to wake and are sleepy for the rest of the day, and some children wake up alert like nothing has happened. Some children wake ‘out of sorts’, in a state of delirium. It can be similar to a ‘night terror’, in that your child reacts differently, almost irrationally, to his or her surroundings. If you, as the parent, are present in recovery when this occurs, please remain calm. This delirium does not last, but it can be quite distressing for the parent. Your child is often unaware of what is occurring during their delirium, so long term effects are rare. Remain calm and be guided by the recovery staff and your anaesthetist.
When your child is anaesthetised, an airway or breathing tube is placed into the throat to look after your child’s breathing when asleep. This breathing tube, when removed after the procedure, may cause some residual discomfort. This may last for a day or two.
The skin may bruise at the site of an intravenous drip or other injections.
Breathing problems are more common in children with pre-existing conditions like asthma and obstructive sleep apnoea. Also if your child has had a recent upper respiratory tract infection, the risk of breathing problems following an anaesthetic is increased. Your anaesthetist will discuss with you prior to the procedure those relative risks. Another serious complication can occur if stomach contents get into the lungs and damage them. This is why fasting prior to an anaesthetic is so important.
These reactions are rare. There is a small chance that your child may have a reaction to a drug given during the anaesthetic. The reaction can vary from a rash to more serious breathing and circulatory/blood pressure problems. Your anaesthetist is trained to manage these uncommon emergencies.