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Information for parents

PJsOur belief is that every child coming in for a procedure or operation should have a safe experience with minimal pain or distress. This page describes how we try and achieve that aim. 

The page is sub-divided into sections. These are:

The anaesthetic assessment 

Every child undergoing an anaesthetic will have an anaesthetic assessment. Typically this is on the morning of surgery, though occasionally may be in advance of this. 

The safety of modern anaesthesia is in part due to the thorough preoperative assessment by the anaesthetist. 

You may be asked questions regarding: 

  • Whether your child has ever had a general anaesthetic
  • Whether anyone in the family has experienced an adverse reaction to an anaesthetic
  • Your child's past medical history
  • Whether your child is currently well or do they have cough or cold at the moment 
  • What medications and inhalers your child is taking
  • Whether your child is allergic to any medications, tapes or ointments 
  • Whether your child has any loose teeth or other dental work 
  • When your child last ate or drank

It is incredibly important to follow the starvation guidelines if your child is undergoing elective surgery. 

One of the risks of a general anaesthetic is of regurgitation. This is where food or acid from the stomach flows up the gullet into the mouth where there is a risk that it could flow back down the wind pipe into the lungs.

Following the starvation guidelines ensures the risks of this incredibly rare but potentially serious event are kept to a minimum. 

(Please note: before your child's procedure, you will be asked some questions on more than one occasion. Although this may seem like unnecessary duplication, it is designed to ensure that we do not miss important information, such as allergies). 

How do we induce anaesthesia? 

Anaesthetic induction takes place in the anaesthetic room. There is an anaesthetic room next to every operating theatre. Typically, your child will be brought to the anaesthetic room with their nurse from the ward and one parent. 

There are two methods of inducing a general anaesthetic. The anaesthetist will discuss with you what they think is most appropriate for your child. This will be guided by your child's age and previous experience of general anaesthetics and what operation they are having. 

The two methods are: 

Intra-venous induction 

This is where a small plastic tube is placed into a vein, usually in the hand. Local anaesthetic cream is placed on the back of the hand first, for at least an hour, to ensure that the skin is numb. This cream is placed on the hand while the child is still on the ward, waiting to come down to the theatre complex. The benefit of this method is that it usually causes little distress to the child and allows them to go to sleep smoothly and safely. 

Gaseous induction 

This is more commonly used in children under three years of age, but may be used in older children for various reasons. 

The child lies on the bed or sits on their parent's knee until they are asleep. A clear plastic mask is gently held over the child's face and the child breathes a mixture of oxygen, nitrous oxide and anaesthetic gas. The child gradually drifts off to sleep in about 30 to 60 seconds. Because induction of anaesthesia by this method is slower, you may see your child go through a wriggly stage before they are fully asleep. Unusual movements or sounds are normal at this time. 

Watching your child being anaesthetised is understandably distressing for many parents, but is usually much less distressing for the child. Once your child is asleep, the nurse will accompany you back up to the ward. 

Post operative pain relief 

Generally, the first point at which you will see your child after their operation is in the recovery room. This is an extremely well staffed area, within the theatre complex, where the child recovers from the anaesthetic. The staff in this area ensure that the child's pain is minimised before returning with you to the ward. 

There are lots of methods of providing pain relief after an operation. Please see our pain management page for more information.