Back to Blog

Ask the Expert: What Parents Need to Know About Anesthesia

July 29, 2019

Posted in Neurology and Neurosurgery,Cardiology and Heart Surgery,Surgery


Surgery can be a terrifying experience, particularly for children. Anxiety and fear are likely to consume a child who is facing an operation. Dr. Anita Akbar Ali, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Arkansas Children's Hospital, is all too familiar with the range of emotions children and their parents face before surgery.

“Every day when I’m doing a case, whether it is a five-minute case or a five-hour case, I feel honored when a parent or caregiver is trusting me with their child’s care,” she says. “I feel fortunate that I’m able to help make a difference in the lives of these children and their families.” Parents should know that “With the advancement of medicine, anesthesia is very safe for children these days and risk can be estimated based on a child’s medical condition and surgical procedure.”


Pediatric Anesthesia vs. Adult Anesthesia

There are distinct differences in how anesthesia is administered to adults and children.

Just like any doctor, anesthesiologists are required to attend four years of medical school. However, to become a pediatric anesthesiologist, four years of anesthesia training, followed by an additional year of pediatric anesthesia training is necessary.

“Children are not just small adults,” explains Dr. Akbar Ali. “They are altogether a different population, and that makes everything different. Training to become a pediatric anesthesiologist is very different from the training required for an adult anesthesiologist.”

The training not only includes how to administer anesthesia safely to children but also on how to help families deal with the emotional trauma of having a child in the hospital. “With kids, we encounter parents and caregivers who are nervous, concerned, and at times, very anxious. They are in their most vulnerable state when their child is sick. It is terrifying for any parent or caregiver even to think that their child would need surgery or an anesthetic,” Dr. Akbar Ali says.

Ensuring children are as comfortable as possible while undergoing anesthesia is of the utmost importance.

“Once the child is in the operating room under anesthesia, we (the anesthesia care team) are there every single minute. We monitor from the time the child goes under until the time he wakes up,” she says.


How Often Is Anesthesia Used on Children?

Removal of tonsils, ear tube placement, circumcision, and orthopedic surgeries are some of the most common procedures that require children to undergo anesthesia. However, there are many non-surgical procedures where anesthesia is necessary.

More often than not, anesthesia is necessary to obtain an image, such as an MRI or CAT scan. Adults are far more likely to stay still long enough (without anesthesia) to finish the scan, but this is not always the case with children.

“For us to get good radiological images, we have to administer anesthesia or some sedation to do the procedure,” Akbar Ali explains. “Just being a child makes you prone to many more cases requiring anesthesia that would not normally require anesthesia for an adult.”

Why should you choose a children’s hospital for your child’s care? It’s simple. Choose a medical facility where surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and patient care staff are 100% focused on children’s safety and family-centered quality care. Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock is the state’s only level 1 pediatric trauma center and is Magnet-recognized for nursing excellence. The American College of Surgeons verified ACH as the only level 1 children’s surgical center in Arkansas. It is one of only eight children’s hospitals in the entire nation to have all three accreditations.

For more information about surgical services at Arkansas Children’s, click here or call Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock at 501-364-4852 or Arkansas Children’s Northwest 479-725-6800. 


Recent Posts

June 04, 2020

Keep Your Kids Sharp this Summer: A Reading List from Arkansas Children's

Many of the Arkansas Children's doctors shared their favorite books in an effort to bring a little...Read More

May 28, 2020

Is it OK to go to the ER Now?

It’s Sunday morning of Memorial Day weekend, and my child got hurt and needed emergency...Read More

May 18, 2020

How to Work from Home and Handle the Stress

Stress is a normal part of parenting. However, during more challenging times like the ones we are...Read More

Featured Expertsarticles-icon