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Anesthesia Services

About Anesthesia Services at St. Jude

Anesthesia is the use of medicines to prevent pain and discomfort during medical tests, procedures, surgery, and other treatments. Anesthesia services are provided by a team of clinical staff in the Division of Anesthesiology . St. Jude anesthesia providers have years of training to know how to give general anesthesia and sedation for surgery and other procedures and provide medicines for pain control.

Services We Provide

Our team of specialists uses state-of-the-art equipment and techniques to provide anesthesia care. Anesthesia services include: 

  • General anesthesia
  • Regional anesthesia
  • Local anesthesia
  • Sedation
  • Pain medicine

Anesthesia providers work to provide a personalized anesthesia plan based on patient needs.

Our Expertise

St. Jude anesthesia providers have advanced training to understand the needs of pediatric patients and provide skilled anesthesia care. We also work collaboratively with other St. Jude clinicians and scientists and conduct research to advance patient care and safety and improve methods for pain control.   

Getting Ready for Anesthesia

The anesthesia plan will depend on the specific procedure and your child’s medical history and diagnosis.

Before anesthesia, the care team will:

  • Meet with you and your child to explain what to expect and answer questions 
  • Do a complete medical history and physical exam
  • Give instructions for how to prepare for anesthesia including Fasting Guidelines if needed  

A child life specialist may also work with the medical team to help your child prepare for anesthesia. 

Fasting (NPO) Guidelines

Before general anesthesia, you will be given instructions for when your child must stop eating or drinking before their procedure. This is known as NPO or fasting guidelines. NPO is short for a Latin phrase that means “nothing by mouth.” Having anything in the stomach during general anesthesia can put your child at risk for getting food or liquid in the lungs. Even chewing gum or sucking on hard candy could be a risk and cause a delay in the procedure. 

Talk to the care team about your child’s other medicines. The care team may suggest changes to medicines before or after anesthesia. 

Always follow the care team’s instructions. This is important to keep patients safe.

During Anesthesia

If your child has general anesthesia, you or one family caregiver can usually stay with your child until they are asleep. Patients are closely monitored during the procedure to make sure they are safe and comfortable. An anesthesia provider is with your child at all times.     

After Anesthesia

After the procedure, your child will be taken to a recovery area for monitoring. You will be called to the recovery area to be with your child as they wake up.


Frequently Asked Questions About General Anesthesia

  1. General anesthesia causes a complete loss of consciousness. It is often described as a “deep sleep.” But unlike normal sleep, your child will not feel sensations such as pain. Your child may breathe in the medicine through a mask or breathing tube. Or they may get medicine through a vein (intravenously or IV). 

  2. The risks of anesthesia depend on the type of anesthesia and procedure. Usually, side effects of anesthesia are minor and go away on their own. The anesthesia team watches patients closely before, during, and after anesthesia.

    After general anesthesia, your child may:

    • Feel sleepy or dizzy
    • Have a headache or muscle aches
    • Feel sick to their stomach or vomit
    • Feel cold or have chills
    • Be confused or have trouble thinking
    • Have a temporary loss of coordination or balance
    • Feel itchy
    • Have a sore throat  

    Other complications may be more serious. Lung problems can happen if food or liquids get into the lungs (aspiration) while a patient is under anesthesia. Certain medicines can cause heart, blood pressure, and breathing problems in some patients. A rare but serious reaction called malignant hyperthermia can happen in patients that have a specific change in their genes (DNA). Patients who have serious medical conditions are at higher risk for problems related to general anesthesia.   

  3. You will be given fasting guidelines (NPO instructions) on when your child must stop eating and drinking before general anesthesia. An empty stomach is important to help prevent nausea and to keep food or liquid from getting in the lungs. Always follow your care team’s instructions. This is important to keep patients safe.

  4. The morning of anesthesia, your child should take all medicines they would normally take unless told not to do so by St. Jude staff. Medicines can be taken with an acceptable clear liquid at any time and will not delay anesthesia. However, if your child usually takes medicines with solid food (such as yogurt or applesauce), you must follow fasting (NPO) guidelines. If you have questions, please call 901-595-2121 to speak to an anesthesia preop nurse practitioner.

  5. The amount of anesthesia is based on your child’s age, weight, the amount of pain associated with the procedure and your child’s heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate. This is learned over years of research and training. Your anesthesia care team are experts in controlling pain and the level of anesthesia for different procedures and individual patient needs. 

  6. An intravenous (IV) catheter is a small tube that is placed inside a vein. It allows the anesthesia team to give medicines and fluids to your child. An arterial line is a small tube that sits in an artery. It allows the anesthesia team to measure blood pressure and do blood tests to help monitor your child closely during anesthesia. 

  7. A breathing tube is a tube that can be placed after your child is asleep that passes through the mouth and into the trachea. It is used to deliver anesthesia gases to your child’s lungs to keep them asleep and to prevent damage to the lungs from aspiration. Aspiration is when food or liquid from the stomach enters the lungs when a patient is under general anesthesia. This can cause a respiratory infection or pneumonia. 

  8. Please contact your primary clinic if your child develops respiratory illness or fever before a scheduled procedure. Your care team will decide the safest time frame for treatment for your child.

  9. In many cases, a parent or caregiver can stay with their child during the induction of anesthesia unless otherwise specified for patient safety. Please remember, it is against St. Jude policy to allow any pictures or video of your child under anesthesia care. 

  10. After your child arrives to the recovery room and your child is stable and safe, a staff member will call you to be at your child’s bedside.  

  11. Your nurse will give you a full set of discharge instructions before you leave the recovery room. This includes what to do if your child has vomiting or fever, how to progress to a regular diet, when to resume normal activities, and watching for bleeding or signs of infection.

  12. For many scans and less invasive procedures, there might be alternatives to general anesthesia. For example, providers can give other types of medicines. These include sedation medicines that make you feel sleepy or relaxed, medicines to reduce anxiety, and analgesics to help decrease pain or anxiety during a procedure.

    Your care team may also talk to you about non-medicine options or coping strategies like listening to music, watching a movie, deep breathing, or comfort positions. When possible, health care providers try to limit the use of general anesthesia in children. This is because too much general anesthesia could affect brain development, especially for children under age 3. Your care team will talk to you about the anesthesia options that are appropriate for your child.

  13. There are multiple options and medications that can be discussed between you and your anesthesia provider to ensure your child is comfortable during a procedure. Your care team can work with you to develop a transition plan to reduce the number of general anesthesia medicines your child receives. We will help you develop a plan that is best for your child based on their age, medical needs, and type of procedure.