Why Pediatric Anesthesia Matters

Making surgery as comfortable and stress-free as possible for kids is one of our top priorities at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Because children’s anesthesia needs are so different, the pediatric anesthesiologists at Children’s are specially trained and experienced to tailor anesthesia and pain management for children and teens whose bodies are still growing.

At Children’s, a pediatric anesthesiologist is guaranteed. Our team plans safe anesthesia for each child based on his weight, height and type of surgery. Through special training and experience, pediatric anesthesiologists provide safe care for infants and children with even the most difficult health issues.

An anesthesiology provider will be with your child throughout the procedure, continuously monitoring his condition as the surgeon works. At our outpatient surgery centers, you will most likely be allowed in the operating room until your child is given an anesthesia mask.


Services We Offer

We know that anesthesia and pain management are a big concern when your child is having surgery. You and your child are in good hands. Our pediatric anesthesiology team offers:

  • General anesthesia to keep your child safely asleep while surgeons are working
  • Monitoring of vital signs and addressing changes in blood pressure, breathing, heart action or wakefulness during surgery
  • Pain relief after surgery to ease pain and anxiety
  • Regional and local anesthesia, or numbing of areas of the body where a surgeon will be working
  • Consultation with you and your child before surgery to answer questions and address concerns

Anesthesia FAQs

What is anesthesiology?

Anesthesiology is a medical specialty focused on the safe management of anxiety and/or pain before, during and after a medical procedure. This can include:

  • Sedation that can help keep a patient calm and/or still during a procedure
  • Regional pain control that numbs an area of the body
  • General anesthesia that renders a patient unconscious and insensitive to pain during surgery

Physicians who specialize in anesthesiology are called anesthesiologists.

What is a pediatric anesthesiologist?

Pediatric anesthesiologists are physicians specializing in anesthesiology, but with a sole focus on the care of children from newborn to age 21. They choose to make pediatric care the core of their medical practice, and receive advanced training and experience in the unique nature of medical and surgical needs of children.

What kind of training does a pediatric anesthesiologist receive?

In addition to the education and training all anesthesiologists receive, pediatric anesthesiologists complete at least one additional year of specialized training in the proper use of anesthesia in the care of infants and children. Pediatric anesthesiologists complete:

  • At least four years of medical school
  • At least three years of residency in anesthesiology
  • One to three years of fellowship training in pediatric anesthesiology
  • Certification from the American Board of Anesthesiologists, with the option to receive another board certification in pediatric anesthesiology

What treatments does an anesthesiologist provide?

Pediatric anesthesiologists are responsible for the general anesthesia, sedation and pain management needs of infants and children. Pediatric anesthesiologists generally provide the following services:

  • Evaluating complex medical problems in infants and children when surgery is needed
  • Planning and care before, during and after surgery
  • Creating a nonthreatening environment for children in the operating room
  • Controlling pain, if needed, after surgery either with intravenous (IV) medicines or other anesthetic techniques
  • Providing anesthesia and sedation for many procedures outside of the operating room, such as MRI, CT scan and radiation therapy

Will an anesthesiologist stay with my child during surgery?

A member of the anesthesia care team will be with your child throughout the procedure to continuously monitor his condition as the surgeon works. The anesthesia care team is generally made up of the anesthesiologist, one or more anesthesiology resident or fellow physicians, anesthesiologist assistants and nurse anesthetists. Together, they work to provide the optimal care for your child.

A member of the anesthesia care team will remain with your child as he wakes up and recovers. Your child may remain asleep for a while after surgery, and may be groggy and confused when he wakes up. We will be on hand to help manage any side effects, such as nausea, chills, shakiness or anxiety. If your child is going home after surgery, we will make sure you know how to care for him at home.

Is anesthesia safe for young children?

Modern anesthesia is safer than ever. Still, children need specialized care, precise dosing and close monitoring during and after surgery.

We will create a plan just for your child based on his weight, height, age, any existing medical conditions and type of surgery. A nurse will call you one or two days before surgery to let you know when your child should stop eating so that his stomach is empty during the procedure, what foods are allowed and anything else you may need to know. One of our anesthesiologists will meet with you before surgery to make sure you and your child know what to expect, and we will be able to talk with you about any questions or concerns you may have.

FDA warns about prolonged anesthesia in children younger than 3 years old
On Dec. 14, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety announcement about the possible effect of giving anesthesia to children younger than 3 years old repeatedly or for long periods of time. Recent studies suggest that a single, relatively short exposure to general anesthetic and sedation drugs in infants or toddlers is unlikely to have negative effects on behavior or learning. However, further research is needed to fully characterize how anesthesia early in life may affect a child’s brain development.

Anesthetics are necessary for infants and children who require surgery, or other painful or stressful procedures, especially when they face situations requiring surgery or procedures that should not be delayed. Your child’s physician can discuss with you the benefits, risks and timing of surgery or procedures requiring anesthetics. Healthcare professionals, along with you, should balance the benefits of appropriate anesthesia use in young children against the potential risks.

Read the full FDA statement 

Meet the Team

Meet Our Pediatric Anesthesiologists

Led by Jill Wilson, MD, Chief of Anesthesiology, our team includes the following pediatric anesthesiologists:

Helpful Resources

When your child is scheduled for surgery, you need to fill out a pre-anesthesia history form with health questions about your child. You can fill out this form in advance at home and save time. Choose the link for the location where your child is having surgery: