More attention is being paid to the potential risks associated with general anesthesia in pediatric patients. Parents and medical providers alike are searching for safe and effective anesthetic alternatives to general anesthesia for infants undergoing surgery.
A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal heralded spinal anesthesia, and the work of my esteemed colleague Dr. Robert Williams, as one of those alternatives. I applaud the work of Dr. Williams and the Department of Anesthesia at the Vermont Children’s Hospital for their efforts in reducing children’s exposure to the effects of general anesthesia and bringing more attention to the use of regional anesthesia techniques.
Spinal anesthesia, however, is only a small aspect of comprehensive regional anesthesia care — and it isn’t a new approach for anesthesiologists at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS). For over three decades, the Department of Anesthesiology at HSS has used a variety of regional anesthesia techniques, including spinals, epidurals, and upper- and lower-extremity blocks, to care for our pediatric patients.
We use a combination of regional anesthesia techniques not only to limit children’s exposure to general anesthesia, but because they are associated with less pain and reduce the need for narcotics after surgery. All-inclusive regional anesthesia care also improves patient comfort and parent satisfaction. Our department, in fact, primarily focuses on using regional anesthesia techniques, when at all possible, to care for all of our orthopedic patients, not just children.
It is rewarding to visit pediatric patients after difficult and painful procedures and them sitting safely their parents’ arms with a smile on their faces and literally in no pain. Hoorah to Dr. Robert Williams for spreading the word about the use of spinals in infants; hopefully more of our colleagues who care for children will continue to improve anesthetic care through the use of regional anesthesia techniques.
Chris R. Edmonds, MD, is board-certified in anesthesiology. Dr. Edmonds specializes in the periopoperative management of children undergoing surgery.