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Anesthesia

Anesthesia for young child in dental office

12/19/2001

Question:

My 4 1/2 year old daughter needs extensive work done on her teeth. Her dentist would like to use general anesthesia on her, but she will be put under for about 1 1/2 hours. I am so scared to have her put under for such a long time. Please tell me if this is safe for her and what are the risks involved? Thank You.

Answer:

In the hands of a competent anesthesiologist practicing in the sophisticated environment of a modern hospital, general anesthesia for healthy adults and children is considered to be very safe. Today, mainly because of cost considerations, more and more surgery is being performed in outpatient surgery centers and in doctor`s offices. The safety of anesthesia in the office setting is less certain. Such places tend not to have the equipment and personnel resources that would be available to handle routine and emergency events in a bigger place.

The duration of the anesthesia and surgery is usually not a major safety issue, although longer surgery implies a bigger procedure with more potential for surgical complications. Her recovery time may be a bit longer than with a very brief anesthetic, but with current anesthesia techniques your daughter should recover fairly quickly to return home. The main problems after routine anesthesia include minor sore throat due to insertion of a breathing tube, nausea and vomiting.

It is not clear from your question exactly who will be providing the anesthesia for your daughter`s dental work. In our center, the vast majority of pediatric anesthesia is given by anesthesiologists who are both Board-certified in anesthesia and also have special training in pediatric anesthesia. This level of expertise is probably not widely available, and anesthesia for children can certainly be given safely by individuals with less intensive training or experience. However, you may wish to inquire about the credentials and experience of the individual(s) taking care of your daughter, as well as getting some more details about the facility and how well it is equipped, and how accustomed they are to providing surgical and anesthesia care for small children.

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Response by:

Gareth S Kantor, MD Gareth S Kantor, MD
Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University