General anaesthesia

We often refer to general anaesthesia as being a bit like when you go to sleep

It is different though, because it is a deeper sleep and it is more controlled. Your child will also be monitored continuously by at least one anaesthetist.

There are two main ways that children can be anaesthetised

The first way is via a mask and the second is via a cannula (needle). Infants and small children generally tend to be anaesthetised by breathing in gas with a mask. When this happens, your child will either be on your lap or on the bed.

Usually the anaesthetist starts with some laughing gas, but after a while a slightly smelly gas is added

The smell is a bit like strong 'texta' or marking pen smell. The anaesthetic team might try a variety of tricks and techniques to make this a relaxed experience for you and your child. Some children, especially very young ones, do not like the mask or smell of the gas and may need to be held down gently when going off to sleep.

Older children have the choice of either the gas or an injection

If an injection is used, numbing cream is usually used for the site of the injection first. This can be discussed with your anaesthetist. Although the needle may take a few moments, going off to sleep is very quick once the medicine has been injected. 

Child goes off to sleep

As children go off to sleep, it is very common for them to wriggle around, roll their eyes back, have noisy breathing and become very floppy. This is all normal and expected. Once your child is asleep, a volunteer or nurse will take you back to the waiting area while the team gets on with looking after your child.

Cannula placed in a vein

Once your child is asleep, if they went to sleep with the mask, they will have a cannula placed in a vein, usually on their arm or foot. Through this your child can be given fluids, pain-killers and sometimes anti-sickness medication.

Last updated Thursday 2nd November 2023