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Visiting SickKids

Explaining anesthesia


Your child needs anesthesiaDoctor talking with a mother and child

If your child is having a surgery, procedure or test at SickKids, chances are they will need anesthesia. The SickKids Pre-Anesthesia Clinic will support and help you and your child in preparation for the upcoming test, surgery or procedure. Our goal is to help you make the best choices for your child's care.

One way to get ready for your child's test, surgery or procedure is to ensure that a pre-anesthestic screen appointment is arranged before the procedure. We need to know your child's state of health in order to make the best decisions about their care.


What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia is a group of medicines that allow patients to receive tests, procedures or operations comfortably.  This can be done with many levels of sedation, from numbing an area to inducing a deep sleep.  Anesthesia will be given to your child by a special doctor called an anesthesiologist.

General anesthesia is medicine that will make your child go into a deep sleep.  You child will not remember anything that happens during this sleep and will not feel any pain.  When the procedure or operation is over, the anesthesiologist will wake up your child and continue to care for them.

What you need to know?

Anesthesia is a very common, but powerful medicine that can cause side-effects. You need to be aware that there is a small risk that your child will experience side effects to anesthesia.  Whether your child is having surgery, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or any other test/procedure under general anesthesia or sedation, there are steps you need to follow to keep them safe.

Understanding the risks

Anesthesia is a powerful drug that can cause side-effects.  It is very important that you understand the risks.

Anesthesia affects some of the body's functions like breathing (lungs and airway) and circulation (the heart).  Your child's anesthesiologist will be with your child during the procedure or operation to make sure they stay healthy and stable.  However, there is a small chance your child will react badly to the medicine.

To reduce these risks, tell your health care team about any medical problems your child has, especially ones involving airway, breathing or the heart.

Is my child's risk higher than usual?

Your child must be well or at a normal state of health on the day of the anesthetic or procedure.  Being unwell or having medical issues increases the risks of anesthesia.

Does your child have any of the health issues listed below?

Your child will also be asked questions during the Pre-Anesthesia Screening Appointment to determine if there are any other factors that may increase their risk.




Pre-Anesthesia Screening Process

Your child will have a procedure or operation and will be given medicine that will make them sleep called anesthesia.  

The Pre-Anesthesia Clinic at SickKids screens your child for health conditions, medications and other things that may increase their risk of reacting badly to anesthesia.  You will be asked many questions about different aspects of your child's day to day health so that the anesthesiologist can make a care plan that is specifically for your child.  Your child's anesthesiologist may also ask you to take your child for some tests or other appointments in order to make the best possible care plan.

Doctor making notesFor more information, please see: