General Anaesthetic (GA)

I frequently do endoscopies on children with abdominal complaints. This procedure is done under a general anaesthetic in children. For many years this was done under sedation, as is usually the case in adults. The experience from the patients and the doctors was not encouraging. The failure rates (due to distress caused to the child) were very high and so all major units moved on to using a general anaesthetic with uniformly positive results, patients and parents much preferred the experience and there were no safety issues with using GA. GA means the conscious level is suppressed to the point where there is no communication or perception of pain or discomfort.

Nowadays a GA is a safe and preferred way of performing elective investigations (done at a time of patient and doctor choice rather than an emergency) that are painful or cause distress (such as embarrassment). Often the consultant anaesthetist will be able to offer a choice of ways in how the child may be put to sleep (such as with an injection or without). At The Thornbury there are a number of extremely experienced consultant anaesthetists who work exclusively or almost exclusively with children and are normally also working at Sheffield Children's Hospital. Most frequently the anaesthetist will be Dr James Ellwood or Dr Rob John and you and your child will meet them on the day of the endoscopy to discuss the anaesthetic procedure. All the staff such as the nurses and operating department practitioners are trained to work with children. If you would like to know more about the medicines that the anaesthetists use, then they would be happy to discuss this with you.

By and large, the easiest children on whom to perform an endoscopy, are those that have had one before. The previous experience of no pain, no discomfort and going home the same day is very reassuring.