Jefferson University Hospitals

Preparing for Your Visit

To ensure the best possible anesthesia experience and outcome for your child, there are important guidelines parents and caregivers should follow before arriving at Jefferson, before your child’s procedure and while your child is recovering in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and after being discharged from the hospital.

It’s important for your child to have an “empty stomach” before procedures requiring full “asleep” anesthesia or even simple sedation. Restricting food and water before surgery is the best way to reduce the risk of choking during surgery.

Follow these time frame guidelines to safely prepare for anesthesia, and don’t hesitate to ask your Jefferson pediatric medical team for additional guidance.

Pediatric Anesthesiology Preparations 

Before Your Child’s Procedure

Your Jefferson pediatric anesthesiologist is a specialist in making sure your child is properly anesthetized before, during and after the medical procedure to assure the greatest level of patient comfort. But, the comforting doesn’t begin and end solely with the doctor’s medical skills. Our doctors try to make the entire hospital experience as pleasant as possible by delivering compassionate psychological care that helps children manage their fears as well as their pain.

Unlike teens, younger children may have difficulty understanding and coping with explanations about anesthesia. Here are some simple descriptions and visualizations pediatric anesthesiologist and families can use to minimize a child’s fear. The goal is to keep explanations simple and even humorous – like playing a game!

Calm Your Child with Easy-to-Understand Explanations

  • The doctor is going to help you fall asleep, and when you wake up your problem will be fixed.
  • You will see your parents before going into surgery, and the anesthesiologist will wake you up after surgery so you can know your parents are right there with you.
  • You will have a lighted Band Aid® on your fingers or toes that goes “beep beep.” It will not hurt.
  • Do you like blowing up balloons? You’re going to breathe into a special balloon that that fills up and empties out to show the doctor how much air is inside of you.
  • The doctor will put a special mask on your face in the operating room. It doesn’t hurt, but you might feel a little dizzy for just a few seconds. 

If needed, our pediatric anesthesiologists can give your child a short-acting sedative. This not only helps children who don’t do well being separated from their parents, it also helps cloud the child’s awareness and memory of pre-surgical procedures.

During Your Child’s Procedure

Some parents or caregivers are eager to accompany their children to the operating room. Sometimes this is possible and beneficial, but it may not always be appropriate or even safe for your child. The anesthesiologist will determine if you are allowed to stay with your child. Some babies and children will go happily and willingly with the medical team to the operating room, but others will benefit from a sedative medication. 

While some medical procedures can be performed under “simple” sedation which allows the child to be fully awake during the procedure, most surgical procedures require your child to be unconscious, or fully “asleep” in the operating room.

Your Jefferson pediatric anesthesiologist will determine the right type and combination of anesthesias, including:

  • A short-term sedative administered orally or through an intravenous (in the vein) injection, to relieve pre-surgical anxiety before going into the operating room
  • A “local” anesthesia administered through an injection that temporarily stops pain in a specific area of the body
  • A “general” anesthesia mixture of oxygen and gas breathed through a mask that puts the child fully asleep in the operating room
  • A “general” anesthesia liquid administered through an intravenous catheter that continually drips through the vein, keeping the child asleep for the duration of the medical procedure

After Your Child’s Procedure

You can be with your child in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) recovery room as soon as it is safe and reasonable to do so. Some children will be awake and alert while others may be quite sleepy for some time. Do not be alarmed if your child is confused, fussy or cranky, as these are common side effects after being under anesthesia.

Infants and Babies

Although all children spend time in the PACU before being given a hospital room or discharged to go home, all patients under six months of age must stay in recovery for at least two hours and sometimes overnight. This is a safety precaution because these tiniest of patients can have altered breathing patterns after being under anesthesia. Extended PACU stays are not uncommon for babies under seven weeks of age, babies who were premature and babies who were in the neonatal intensive care unit for more than two weeks. 

Children and Teens

Children and teens who have serious medical conditions including breathing problems, heart issues  and neurological or developmental conditions may also remain in the PACU for an extended period of time before being released to a hospital room or allowed to go home. Your child’s safety is always our top priority, so the anesthesiologist will determine if your child requires admission or can go home based on the day’s course of events plus the risks and benefits.

After Your Child is Discharged from the Hospital

Keep in mind that sedation and/or anesthesia may continue to affect your child for up to 24 hours after it is administered. They may feel sleepy, weak or uncoordinated. Your Jefferson pediatric anesthesia team will provide you with discharge instructions to help you understand these lingering effects. You may need to restrict their physical activities, especially sports, for their own safety until they return to their normal behavior.