Months ago, our son, during a blissful moment of childhood enthusiasm, was dancing around in circles. He had just figured out he could make his little body move around-and-around-and-around–and then he fell. He smacked his face solidly on our new laminate flooring and chipped his front tooth. After a visit to the pediatric dentist, where his tooth got filed smooth again, we were warned to watch out for an abscess from the trauma–which could occur after months. Of course, it occurred, and we found ourselves contemplating the route to take for extracting this tooth.
The first dental surgeon’s office I called was very blunt: “We only do IV anesthesia.” This would mean my 20-month old would be put completely under, for a procedure that takes less than 15 minutes. “Why don’t you bring him in tomorrow and we may or may not be able to do the extraction then?” Hm.
The next office I called assured me that they wished to reduce stress to the child, so they use an oral versed anesthesia to put him in an unconscious state, then they take him back for the procedure (which I could not attend). Their next open appointment was a month away. Hmm.
I called the pediatric dentist again and that office took the liberty of contacting two more surgeons, both of whom did tooth extractions as outpatient procedures in a hospital setting, with IV anesthesia. And they were both booked for over a month. Hmmm.
This tooth had to come out, or else it would keep getting infected. (Which would mean extended antibiotics and possible damage to the adult tooth in its formation stage.) Frustration!
Finally, the pediatric dentist offered to do the extraction. He told us that it would require a papoose-style restraint, a quick topical numbing agent, local anesthesia, and he would then extract the tooth. We decided that the in-office procedure, without general anesthesia, was the best option for our little boy. We wanted to reduce the amount of harsh drugs he is exposed to, and we’re not really keen on the idea of the kiddo being unconscious unless absolutely necessary.
We took little Bear in for the procedure and it went much better than this worrying mama expected. Sure, it was hard to see him so upset at being put in a restraint (which he, um, broke out of…), it was heartbreaking that he didn’t really understand what was going on (even though we “practiced” what might happen multiple times), and I hated to see his mouth propped open with a vise-like device for a few minutes. But the extraction took literally minutes. Our appointment was at 10:30 and we were back in the car before 11:00. Bear was back to normal as soon as he realized it was all over.
Which brought me to the question: why were the other surgeons so intent on general anesthesia? If we hadn’t read, researched, and taken our time making a decision, things could have gone completely differently.
Additionally, in doing more research, I came across this article (and other supporting documents HERE and HERE) which point to the idea that pediatric anesthesia could be harmful to cognitive development. According to preliminary research, anesthesia caused significant deficits in lab animals (chimpanzees) when administered at an early age. To date, the FDA has not released further statements nor research on this subject.
Clearly, in the event of an injury, one has to weigh the pros and cons of treatment for her child. However, in our case, it deeply disturbed me that the risks of anesthesia were not even considered by the surgeons. General anesthesia was the ONLY choice for this procedure, despite the fact that it is a common and quick one. And while there is no definitive answer about whether anesthesia causes brain damage, the research is indicating that it does, so isn’t that worth a mention or a consideration by the surgeon?
I can only assume two things: 1) the general anesthesia for this procedure is for the sake of ease for the doctor and 2)the surgeons either aren’t keeping up on current research or they don’t think it is important to mention to parents. Or both.
I am, yet again, reminded of the importance of taking responsibility for one’s health–and not relying solely on the advice of the medical community.
Have you experienced a situation similar to mine? Have your children ever had to undergo anesthesia? What are your thoughts?