FDA alert provides critical guidance on pediatric anesthesia

When a child's health is compromised, parents will typically go to any length to ensure the child gets the help and medical attention he or she needs. In some cases, surgery is the only or best way to do this. In these situations, it is typically up to the doctor to discuss the procedure with parents and assess whether an operation is in the child's best interests.

For instance, if an operation would unnecessarily expose a young child to the potential risks of anesthesia, then the Food and Drug Administration advises health professionals to seek alternatives.

Balancing the benefits and risks of anesthesia

As noted in this alert from the FDA, some studies suggest that a young child's development, behavior and learning can be adversely affected by repeated or extensive use of general anesthesia or sedative drugs before the age of three.

Though there are disputes regarding the legitimacy of these findings, even potential problems involving anesthesia and medication should be taken seriously and discussed.

The FDA alert has also resulted in black box warnings for nearly a dozen anesthetic and sedating medications, which is the strictest warning available.

How doctors should respond

The alert advises doctors and other health professionals to consider measures to avoid potential risks. These measures include limiting operations to no longer than three hours, delaying unnecessary surgery and opting for regional anesthesia if appropriate.

On the other hand, doctors should not delay medically necessary operations because of the potential cognitive effects anesthesia might have. They should also adhere to their responsibility to timely refer a patient to a specialist if necessary.

What to know if your child has been injured

If your child has suffered because of a medication error or because treatment was unnecessarily delayed, then it can be critical that you discuss your legal options with an attorney.

While not every adverse medical situation is grounds for a malpractice claim, doctors can and do make mistakes with regard to surgery and medication. Under these circumstances, you may be in a position to collect financial compensation for the damages you and your child suffered as a result of medical errors.

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