Anesthesia Risk Slim to None for Healthy Children

General anesthesia for healthy children deemed quite safe

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) General anesthesia tends to be a scary prospect for parents whose children need surgery. Parents may feel a complete loss of control, but actually there is no basis for these fears. According to a new study, general anesthesia is quite safe in healthy children.

A recent study at an Australian children's hospital finds that there's little or no risk of death related to general anesthesia in healthy children.

"General anesthesia is quite safe for healthy children."

Dr.Benjamin F. van der Griend of Christchurch Hospital, New Zealand and his colleagues found that after reviewing 100,000 cases involving children undergoing general anesthesia, all of the 10 deaths occurred in children with "significant life-threatening medical problems."

These children would most likely have been considered not eligible to receive anesthesia prior to the state of the art dramatic new surgical procedures available to the critically ill. The results highlight the need for realistic communication with families to provide information regarding  the risks and benefits of anesthesia for children with such complex medical conditions.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Jayant K. Deshpande of Arkansas Children's Hospital and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences intends to highlight that the Austrian study used a new and not generally accepted definition of anesthesia-related deaths, which probably explains why the reported rate is higher than in previous studies.

Deshpande endorses following a "uniform, clinically useful definition" of anesthesia-related death which will clarify true risks for both healthy children and those facing serious conditions.

The researchers analyzed 101,885 anesthesia procedures in 56,000 children undergoing surgery from 2003 to 2008. A panel of expert anesthesiologists judged whether each death was related to the anesthetic in any way.

The overall rate of death from any cause within 24 hours was 13.4 per 10,000 anesthesia procedures, while the rate of death within 30 days was 34.5 per 10,000 procedures.

The risk of death was higher among infants less than 30 days old and infants and children undergoing heart surgery. These are critically ill children before the operation.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 31, 2011
Last Updated:
June 2, 2011