What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is medicine that causes a loss of feeling in all or part of the body. Anesthesia comes in different types. The best anesthesia for your child depends on his or her health, the type of surgery they are having, what the surgeons need to do their work, and what your family wants.

General anesthesia

This type of anesthesia puts your child in a deep sleep. Your child might breathe in the medicine or receive it through a vein. Your child will not be aware of his or her surroundings with this kind of anesthesia.


Sedation is medicine that makes your child relaxed or sleepy. The medicine used in sedation is usually given through a vein.

Regional anesthesia

Regional anesthesia numbs a larger part of the body. During surgery, your child will not feel any pain in that area of the body. For example, if your child is having surgery on his or her thumb, regional anesthesia will numb the arm. You child may also be given sedation or general anesthesia during this time. Regional anesthesia may be useful for children who have chronic pain.

There are three types of regional anesthesia:

  • Spinal—medicine is put into the back with a needle. This stops pain and movement. The needle is removed after the medicine is given.
  • Epidural—medicine goes into the body through a small tube in your child’s back. The tube is attached to a pump that gives your child a constant amount of medicine. The tube is removed after the medicine is no longer needed to control pain.
  • Nerve block—medicine is injected near nerves to control pain during surgery. Sometimes a small tube is placed near the nerve that is attached to a pump that gives your child a constant amount of medicine. The nerve block will stop or decrease pain for several hours after surgery.

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