The two best options for giving general anesthesia to a teenager are through a face mask or through an intravenous line.

While both options exist, let’s jump right in to find out how this is done.

How is general anesthesia given through a face mask?

If you decide to have the general anesthesia through the face mask, you will be taken to the room where the anesthesia is given. Here are the typical steps:

  • You will be attached to the following monitors:
    • Electrocardiogram
    • Pulse oximetry to measure oxygen saturation
    • Noninvasive blood pressure
  • You will be asked to breathe oxygen through a face mask that is kept on your nose and mouth. During this time you can still keep your eyes open if you wish to and continue talking.
  • Anesthesia gas which is sevoflurane will be administered next along with oxygen. You will start smelling the anesthesia gas and it is a typical smell most people will easily come to know.
  • As more and more gas enters the body, the state of general anesthesia starts setting in. The brain cells have a slow reduction in electrical activity and you will be under general anesthesia.

How is general anesthesia given through an intravenous line?

  • If you decide to have general anesthesia through the intravenous line, you will be first placed an intravenous line.
  • The monitors may be placed before or after placing the intravenous line. This depends on your preference, health condition, and type of practice.
  • The monitors are the similar ones I have mentioned under the mask anesthesia.
  • You will be asked to breathe oxygen through a face mask like above. This process is similar in both. However, if you are not comfortable having a face mask you can request your anesthesia doctor not to place it until you are off to sleep. This can be accommodated in most situations unless there is a complex medical history is present.
  • The intravenous medicine is now administered to get you off to sleep. This is most commonly propofol. But sometimes other medicines like etomidate or ketamine may be used for special circumstances.
  • As the medicine goes into the IV, it starts circulating to all the organs in the body. Eventually, when it gets to the brain in enough concentration, it slows down the electrical activity of the brain cells to make you have general anesthesia.

Does it matter if I chose a mask or the intravenous route?

For most people, it does not make a difference. Choosing either the mask or the intravenous route typically depends on personal preference. However, there are some special circumstances in which your anesthesia doctor may suggest one over the other depending on your health condition and the type of procedure. There are situations where the mask may be better than the intravenous route and vice versa.

Why would anyone choose a mask or the intravenous (IV) line?

Simplistically stated, this is what usually happens based on my experience.

  • Teenagers who are scared of a needle chose a mask.
  • On the other hand, teens who do not to smell something chose to have an intravenous line.

How most teenagers get general anesthesia depends on many factors including some of the following:

  • Type of hospital
  • How strongly the options are offered to the patients?
  • Strong personal preference

I have personally seen places where most teenagers get general anesthesia with an intravenous line and also have seen where most get via a face mask.

Is either mask or intravenous route better than the other?

No, they both do the job equally well. Both medicines will get you to have general anesthesia. As I have mentioned there are some special circumstances where one may have a better edge than the other and this is a discussion with your anesthesia doctor.

Is this how general anesthesia is always given to teenagers?

For most teenagers, these are the two best options for general anesthesia. There are two other options that are used less commonly.

  1. Intramuscular route: This option is typically used in teenagers who are behaviorally challenged and cannot take either the mask or the intravenous route.
  2. Intranasal route: This is not a general anesthesia route but a way to get to general anesthesia. For some teenagers with special health conditions who cannot take any of the above options like the mask, intravenous or intramuscular, sedative medicines are used through the nose. Then this gets to a stage where the teenagers would be comfortable accepting one of the above options.

What happens after general anesthesia sets in with the mask?

After general anesthesia sets in by either the mask, an intravenous line is placed to administer additional medicines except for a few procedures where the anesthesia can safely be administered without an intravenous line. This step does not exist with the intravenous route as it obviously already exists.

What happens after general anesthesia is fully on?

At this stage, your anesthesia doctor may administer additional medicines as required for your medical procedure or your operation. These may include some or all of the following

  • Narcotic pain medicines
  • Other non-narcotic medicines to reduce pain
  • Medicines to relax muscles
  • Medicines to prevent nausea and vomiting

Besides these, your anesthesia doctor might decide to place a breathing tube in.

You can also watch this as a video on YouTube by clicking this link:

Check this video out on how anesthesia is given to a 1-year-old child?

A 1-year-old child is typically placed to sleep with a face mask. Interested to see how this is done with a demonstration of a baby going to sleep, check this video out..




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