Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Children's Hospital
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Home / A–Z Services / Pediatric Surgery / Anesthesiology / Planning for Anesthesia
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Planning for Anesthesia


You will receive a detailed guide about what to expect when your child needs anesthesia.

No food or drink before anesthesia
We ask children to stop eating and drinking before surgery to reduce the risk of food or fluid coming up from the stomach and getting into the lungs. When we are awake, our natural airway reflexes protect us from food or drink getting into our airways. An anesthesiologist’s primary joby is to keep a close eye on your child while their natural defenses are sleeping.

Does my child need to have an intravenous line (IV) before going to sleep?
We can use a gas or intravenous (IV) medicine to have your child go to sleep. Using the sleepy gas lets us put in the IV after your child is asleep. Most younger children experience less stress if they are asleep for the IV. We prefer that older children  go to sleep with an IV. Some conditions require an IV first, but your anesthesiologist will discuss this with you.

Can I be in the operating room (OR) when my child goes to sleep?
Some hospitals allow parents in the OR when their child goes to sleep. This sounds like a great idea, but it is often more stressful. It can also diverted our team's attention away from your child. At Children’s Hospital, we want to focus on the best care for your child.

After your child wakes up
Once the surgery is complete and your child is awake, we give more medicine if needed. Often this medicine is given through the IV, but we can also use nerve blocks to keep your child comfortable. Nerve blocks are being used more often to reduce side effects, including nausea, vomiting and disorientation. These blocks are often placed while your child is sleeping and they enable us to focus our pain control.

Can my child have something to relax before the operation?
Children who are anxious before surgery can be calmed with behavioral methods or medication. Our child life specialists will explain what will happen on the day of surgery in ways children can understand. This is often enough to reassure children. For children who are still anxious or frightened, we can use medications by mouth or IV. We try to avoid these medications because they can delay awakening, prolong recovery, and result in turbulent wakening.

What are the risks of anesthesia?
Anesthesia today is safer than it has ever been, but it has an element of risk. Anesthesia aims to take away the pain and discomfort of surgery and make it easier for medical procedures. The benefits must be weighed against the risks of anesthesia.

Blood transfusions
Learn about blood transfusions, the types of blood products your child may receive and possible risks and reactions.

Helpful links

Preparing for Surgery and Online Tour
Visit this section of our website for how you can help your child prepare for surgery. There is also an online pre-surgery tour for children and parents.

PATCH Clinic
Learn more about what you can do to prepare your child and your family for a stay in the hospital, including our Preoperative Assessment and Teaching for Children's Hospital, or PATCH, Clinic.

Child Life
Child Life specialists help children, teens and families understand procedures and surgeries. They can also coordinate a presurgery visit.

The Society for Pediatric Anesthesia
The purpose of the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia is to continually advance the safety and quality of anesthetic care, perioperative management, and alleviation of pain in children.

American Society of Anesthesiologists Patient and Parent Resources
The American Society of Anesthesiologists is an educational, research and scientific association of physicians organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and improve the care of the patient.


Last Edited: August 27, 2015
Valued Participant of Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network