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East Tennessee Children's Hospital
2018 W Clinch Ave
Knoxville, TN 37916

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Pediatric Anesthesiology

About Pediatric Anesthesiology

Parents don't routinely choose their child's anesthesiologist, but as a parent, you can choose the hospital where the anesthesiologist and the entire surgical team are most prepared to care for your child. At Children's Hospital, the anesthesia team spends each day caring only for infants, children and adolescents.

According to pediatric anesthesiologist Heather Phillips, D.O., "After all, that's why we each chose to work at Children's. You wouldn't go to a children's hospital for adult surgery, so why would you send your child to an adult hospital for pediatric surgery?"

Surgical patients at Children's Hospital have many different needs, from ear tubes and tonsillectomies to emergencies like appendectomies and broken bones. Major operations, such as brain surgeries and spinal fusions, happen at Children's Hospital almost every day, and the pediatric anesthesia team is involved in all of those. Patients range in age and size from premature infants that barely weigh a pound to teenagers and young adults who may weigh several hundred pounds.

"We see a wide range of patients, from the critically ill to the very healthy to those with very rare syndromes," Dr. Phillips said. "We take care of children for all surgeries performed at Children's Hospital as well as at Children's West Surgery Center."

Why choose Children's Hospital for Your Child's Surgery?

Pediatric anesthesiologists are highly educated medical specialists who complete a lengthy and rigorous training process. Undergraduate study and medical school are followed by a one-year internship, a three-year anesthesiology residency and finally a year in pediatric anesthesiology. Some of our anesthesiologists have also completed residencies in pediatrics prior to their anesthesia training. All anesthesiologists at Children's Hospital are board-certified in Anesthesiology, with many double-boarded in Anesthesiology and Pediatrics; two anesthesiologists also have a third board certification in Critical Care Medicine or Pediatric Emergency Medicine.

The Anesthesia Process

Parents and patients meet their surgeon before surgery, generally in office visits. Anesthesia team members typically meet patients and families on the day of surgery. "We want to know everything about your child's medical history to care for him or her in the safest way possible," Dr. Phillips said. "We'll ask about home medications, allergies, previous hospitalizations or surgeries, existing medical conditions and family history that may be relevant to the anesthetic."

The anesthesia team uses all the information collected from parents to formulate the anesthetic plan. The plan covers which type of anesthesia is best, when the IV will be placed (before anesthesia while awake or after anesthesia has begun), whether the child will need a breathing tube or special monitors, and if there is a potential for blood product transfusion.

Additionally, the plan goes over how the child will wake up from the anesthesia, and how the child's pain and nausea will be treated. If the child will be staying in the hospital after surgery, there are many ways the anesthesiologist can help with pain management, including a patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pump.

"We realize surgery is a scary thing for most children, and we do our best to make them as comfortable as possible," Dr. Phillips said. "We use terms just for children like 'muscle tester' for the blood pressure cuff and 'princess ring' for the pulse oximeter. Because most children receive anesthesia by breathing the gas through a mask, sometimes we'll tell them we're having a contest to see which kid can blow up a balloon the biggest through the mask. This makes it fun for them, or at least less scary, and avoids words that they don't understand.

"Medicine and surgery are not exact sciences, and we can't always predict every event. What we can do, though, is be ready and able to respond to anything that happens in the operating room," Dr. Phillips said. "We do whatever is necessary to keep your child safe."