How Safe is Using Anesthesia on Babies & Toddlers

Is Anaesthesia Safe for Babies and Toddlers?

Going in for surgery is always a scary thing for both adults and children. Especially for toddlers, even the most common surgeries are used as a last resort. If your baby needs surgery, it is natural to feel scared. You may be wondering if the anaesthesia might have any negative effect on your child. Let’s look into the details.

What Are the Risks Associated with Anaesthesia for Infants and Toddlers?

There are risks associated with anaesthesia for every single person who goes under the knife, not just toddlers. However, the anaesthesia risks for babies centre around the fear that the procedure will affect their brain development. This might make you want to put off your baby’s surgery for some more years till his brain is fully developed. You can do so if such a decision poses no harm. But if it is a highly necessary surgery, then you should get it done soon for your baby’s sake. Anaesthesia is generally considered safe, and paediatric anesthesiologists have worked hard to ensure that millions of babies are able to undergo lifesaving surgeries. Scientists do intensive research and physicians all around the world also take particular care when handling any medication for infants and toddlers.

What To Do If Your Child Requires Surgery?

The first thing you should do as a parent is to discuss all the benefits and risks associated with the particular surgery your child requires with an informed doctor. Following are the questions you should ask:

1. Ask About Timing

If your child is not in a life-threatening condition or the surgery is not an emergency, you can consider putting it off for some time till your child turns three years. Studies show that the effects of anaesthesia on a child’s brain reduce with age.

2. Discuss with the Anesthesiologist

Paediatric anaesthesiologists are particularly trained to use medications which are least harmful to the baby to avoid complications. They are also trained to administer the specific quantity of anaesthesia to the child based on her weight, age, gender and if she is under any other medication for a particular illness. If your hospital allows you, you can choose a paediatric anesthesiologist who works with children very often.

3. Stay Calm

Don’t panic. Learn to recognize that it is imperative for a child to be administered anaesthesia if he requires surgery. Anaesthesia becomes a necessity if you want your child should to undergo surgery without any pain.

A woman with her baby talking to a doctor

How Can Paediatric Anaesthesiologist Keep Your Child Safe?

Infants and toddlers react differently to anaesthesia as compared to adults. Paediatric anaesthesiologists are specially trained to make sure that your child goes to sleep under the effects of anaesthesia and remains comfortable and safe throughout the procedure. They will keep a careful watch on your child’s breathing, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and heart rate and adjust the level of anaesthesia accordingly. They will do whatever they can to keep your child’s vitals safe and stable during the surgery.

Are There Any Sedatives Safer Than Anaesthesia for Young Children?

Research is being carried out in labs to determine if there are alternate sedatives to anaesthesia. In a study performed on animals, it was found that all sedatives used for sedation including anaesthesia have an effect on normal brain development if administered for longer periods of time. Some anaesthetics like dexmedetomidine, clonidine, and opioids were shown to not have such effects on the brain of these animals. However, these alternatives are not suitable for human surgical procedures. Scientists are currently doing their best to find new sedative options. For now, anaesthesia is the best one there is.

1. Is General Anaesthesia Safe for Babies?

For babies, the safest way to perform surgeries is under general anaesthesia. Other medications which can be used for sedation share the same side effects as general anaesthesia and these effects may change depending on the baby’s weight, age, medical history, developmental level, physical attributes and the type of surgery performed. For instance, light sedation is not suitable for toddlers and infants.

2. How Safe Is Anaesthesia for Toddlers?

If your toddler is above the age of 3, then it is generally understood that the effect of anaesthesia on his brain will be lesser. Even though anaesthesia is a lifesaver, if your toddler requires emergency surgery, the surgery can be put off if the condition to be treated is not very urgent. Also, you can explore options like drug therapy instead of surgery after due discussion with your doctor. This can offer a safe way to treat your child till he turns three when the risks associated with anaesthesia reduce.

Remember to always have a detailed discussion with your child’s doctor and the paediatric anesthesiologist before any recommended surgery for your child. Not only will your fears be put at ease, but you can also polish your knowledge and be aware of every risk, benefit and side effect associated with the procedure.

Also Read: Is Enema Safe for Your Child

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