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Travel after sedation or anesthesia


What are sedatives and anesthesia?

Anesthesia (A nus THEE zhuh) is medicine that blocks pain signals to the brain. This keeps your child from feeling pain during a procedure. There are three kinds of anesthesia: local, regional, and general. Local anesthesia affects only the area where the procedure is taking place, and it is limited to a small area. An example of this is the anesthesia your dentist gives you before filling a cavity in your tooth. In regional anesthesia, the medicine blocks pain signals in a larger area of the body. If your child needs to be completely asleep for a procedure, the staff will give him general anesthesia.

A sedative (SE duh tiv) is a medicine that helps your child relax during a procedure. The sedative will not put him to sleep, but he will not remember very much of the procedure after it is finished. Because sedatives do not block pain signals to the brain, the staff often will give local or regional anesthesia as well.

What is the risk in traveling after having sedation or anesthesia?

Anesthesia can stay in your child’s system for 24 hours or more. While under the influence of sedation or anesthesia, your child may have problems breathing. Anesthesia can also limit your child’s ability to function or cause your child to become distressed and upset. If this happens while your child is traveling in a car or a plane, you will not be able to get your child the help he needs right away.

How soon can my child travel by car or plane after sedation or anesthesia?

After a minor procedure

Minor procedures can include an MRI, CT, or nuclear medicine scan, radiation therapy, some eye procedures, and procedures that involve a small cut in the skin like a lumbar puncture, a bone marrow biopsy, a PICC line placement, or subcutaneous port removal.

Travel guidelines: Your child can travel by car after being discharged from the recovery area. Your child will not be allowed to fly until he has spent at least 4 hours on the St. Jude campus after being released from the recovery area.

After a major procedure or surgery

Major procedures and surgeries involve a cut in the skin and other tissues. Examples include placing a central venous line or removing deep tissue organ samples.

Travel guidelines: Your child will either be admitted to the hospital or will be required to stay in St. Jude housing or in the Memphis area for the first night after the major procedure.

Special cases:

If your child has severe health problems such as heart or breathing issues, talk to the doctor who gives anesthesia to find out when your child can safely leave the St. Jude campus.

An infant who was born early (before 36 weeks in the womb) must be admitted as an inpatient after receiving anesthesia or a sedative if the infant has a post-conceptual age (PCA) of less than 60 weeks. You can find the PCA by adding the number of weeks the infant spent in the womb with the number of weeks after birth. So, a baby who was in the womb for 30 weeks and is currently 8 weeks old would have a PCA of 38 weeks. These infants are at risk for a condition called apnea, where breathing stops. The hospital staff must monitor these infants as inpatients at least overnight after anesthesia or sedation. If they stop breathing at any time, the staff might need to monitor them for a longer period.

An infant who was not born early and has a PCA less than 60 weeks must be monitored by the staff for 6 hours after receiving anesthesia or a sedative. Your child will spend part of this time in the Medicine Room. Depending on the child’s health history, the doctor might decide to admit the infant as an inpatient.

Will we have housing if we need to stay the night?

Your family might check out of St. Jude housing at noon on the day of the procedure. Then, if you cannot get a plane flight when the doctor releases your child to travel, you might have to stay in town for the night. If this happens, St. Jude will provide your family with housing.

If we are flying, how do we know when to take the shuttle?

On your child’s appointment card, look for the words, “Flight Departure.” Flight Departure is the time the shuttle leaves the campus to take you to the airport. But, you should always check with Patient Services to confirm this time, because it can change.


To learn more about the policies for traveling after sedation or anesthesia, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse. If you are inside the hospital, dial 0. In the local area, call 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 when the call connects.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).