What is anesthesia?


Anesthesia in children: Overview

Anesthesia is a way to control pain and keep your child comfortable during or after a procedure by using medicines.

There are different types of anesthesia. Sedation helps your child relax or fall asleep. Local numbs a small area of your child's body. Regional blocks pain to a larger area, such as an arm or leg. General affects your child's whole body and makes them unconscious. The type of anesthesia your child gets depends on the reason they need it, their age, and their health.

Serious problems from anesthesia aren't common. Your child's risk depends on their overall health. Some health problems can increase your child's risk. Your child's doctor or nurse will find out about any problems that could affect your child's care.


Anesthesia is the use of medicines to control pain and keep a person comfortable. Anesthetics are used to numb a specific area of the body (local and regional anesthesia). Or they can cause a person to be unconscious and not have pain during a procedure such as surgery (general anesthesia).

The types of anesthesia include:

  • Sedation. It's medicine that helps the person relax or fall asleep. It may be used with other medicine to reduce pain.
  • Local anesthesia. It numbs just a small area of tissue.
  • Regional anesthesia. It numbs a larger (but still limited) part of the body and does not make the person unconscious. Spinal and epidural anesthesia are examples of regional anesthesia.
  • General anesthesia. It affects the entire body and makes the person unconscious. The person is completely unaware of what is going on and does not feel pain from the surgery or procedure.

The type of anesthesia used depends upon the procedure and the person's health and age.

A person who gets local or regional anesthesia needs to be able to lie still and stay calm during the surgery. Medicine may be given to help the person relax.

What are the types of anesthesia?

The main types of anesthesia are sedation and local, regional, and general anesthesia. Sedation relaxes you or makes you feel sleepy. Local numbs a small area. Regional includes nerve blocks and spinal and epidural anesthesia. It numbs a larger region of the body. General affects your whole body and makes you unconscious.

What are some risks of anesthesia?

Major side effects and other problems aren't common, especially in people who are in good health.

But all anesthesia has some risk. For example:

  • After general anesthesia, nausea and sore throat can occur. In rare cases, heart or breathing problems or other serious issues can occur.
  • After spinal or epidural anesthesia, some people get headaches. In rare cases, heart or breathing problems or nerve damage can occur.

Your risk depends on the type of medicine you get. It also depends on your age, your health, and how you respond to the medicines used. Some conditions increase your chances of problems. Examples include heart and lung problems, obesity, and sleep apnea. Taking certain medicines can raise your risk for problems. So can smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs.

Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about the best type for you. They will review risks and benefits.

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a way to control pain and keep you safe and comfortable during a procedure. Medicines are used to block pain. They also may make you relaxed, sleepy, or forgetful. Or they may make you unconscious for your procedure.

What should you tell the anesthesia specialist before your child has anesthesia?

Tell the specialist about any health problems your child has. Tell them about your child's past surgeries. Also let them know if a family member had problems with anesthesia. Give them a list of any medicines, vitamins, and herbal products your child takes.

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