Health Library
Anesthesia for Outpatient Surgery

How is Anesthesia Used During Outpatient Surgery?

Today, more than 80 percent of elective surgery at Cincinnati Children's is done in the outpatient setting. It's more convenient for you and your child, with decreased time away from home, family and work. Outpatient surgery also reduces stress and emotional disturbance to your child. There is less risk of infection, and medical care costs are lower.

The development of new and short-acting anesthetic drugs has enabled the growth in outpatient surgery. These drugs take effect smoothly and quickly, providing good pain control and a rapid recovery without major side effects. Common outpatient surgical procedures include:

Before the Operation

Before the operation, your child will be assessed and prepared for surgery. You will be asked questions about your child's medical history, allergies, current medications, previous anesthetic experience and current health status. Your child's airway, heart and lungs will be examined.

Our goal at Cincinnati Children's is for your child to feel safe and happy in our environment. A member of the nursing staff or Child Life Department will explain what the day will be like, in a child-friendly manner.

If your child is extremely anxious before going to sleep for the procedure, your child may be sedated with a medication that can be taken by mouth. This helps relax the child, makes separation from the parents smoother and often provides amnesia so the child does not remember the experience. This medication may not be appropriate prior to certain surgeries.

During the Operation

In most children, general anesthesia is usually started by having your child breathe anesthetic gas through a mask. Once your child is asleep, the airway is kept open with a breathing tube or Laryngeal Mask Airway. An IV will be placed after the child is asleep.

In older children, the IV is placed in a vein, typically in the hand or arm. The IV is placed while your child is awake for safety reasons. The anesthesia medication is pushed into the IV and then travels to your child's vein. Your child will quickly fall asleep.

Anesthesia providers will monitor your child closely during surgery. Routine equipment will check on the heart's electrical activity, blood pressure, oxygen levels in the blood and breathing.

To help reduce pain during surgery, once your child is asleep a nerve block (such as a caudal block) may be performed. These blocks help to keep your child comfortable after surgery. Intravenous pain control medications as well as medications to reduce nausea and vomiting after surgery may also be used.

After the Operation

Recovery from anesthesia is usually rapid. Minor side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, sore throat, nausea and vomiting may occur.

Children are released from the Post Anesthesia Care Unit once they meet discharge criteria, usually within 40 to 60 minutes after surgery. Once your child is home, you may receive a follow-up telephone call to assure that all is well.

Last Updated 06/2022

Reviewed By Thomas Kabalin, MD