Okee in Medical Imaging

General anaesthetic

  • What is a general anaesthetic?

    Most children are awake when they have their pictures taken at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Sometimes you may need to be asleep for your pictures.

    A general anaesthetic (or GA) is a medicine that helps you go into a special sleep while you have your pictures taken. There is a doctor called an Anaesthetist, who will make sure you stay asleep during your pictures, and will wake you up when your pictures have been taken. When you wake up you might be in a different room called ‘Recovery’ and your mum or dad will be right there beside you.

    It’s important to fast for 6 hours before having a general anaesthetic – that means no food or milk. You can keep having water or clear drinks (like apple juice) until 2 hours before.

    Will I need a general anaesthetic?

    If you need to have a general anaesthetic, your doctor, with your mum or dad, will talk about this before your pictures are booked in. It will also be written on the appointment letter your parents receive.

    Sometimes children come to the hospital to have their pictures taken while they’re awake, but it is then decided that they will need a general anaesthetic. This can be for lots of different reasons. Having a general anaesthetic takes some planning, so you will need to come back to the hospital on another day if this is the case.

    What you need to know

    Before you come to hospital, you will need to fast. That means you are not allowed any food or milk for 6 hours. But you can keep drinking water or clear drinks (like apple juice) until 2 hours before your appointment.

    You will need to come to the hospital awhile before it’s your turn – during this time you will meet a nurse who will weigh you, measure your temperature, blood pressure, pulse and give you an ID bracelet to wear.

    Next you’ll meet the anaesthetist who will talk to you and your parents about having your general anaesthetic.

    Sometimes the anaesthetist may ask the nurse to give you a medicine to drink. This will help you feel relaxed before you have the general anaesthetic. This will usually be decided after you arrive at the hospital.

    The anaesthetist can give you the general anaesthetic 2 different ways – using a medicine you breathe through a mask or through a cannula – that’s a little straw that goes into your vein.


    This is what the mask looks like – you can sometimes decorate your mask with stickers! You can also choose a nice smell to put inside your mask. Then all you need to do is breathe normally into the mask and you’ll drift off to sleep in a minute or two.

    GA mask


    This is what the cannula looks like – it’s a tiny straw that is made of plastic and is soft and bendy. The straw needs to go into a vein and the doctor will choose the best place for you. This will most likely be your hand, arm or foot. You can have something to help numb your skin – this means you shouldn’t feel things as much. When the skin is numb, placing the little straw should not bother you. Once the straw is in place, you shouldn’t notice it. Then the medicine will help you drift off to sleep. When you wake up, the straw will be taken out before you go home.


    After your pictures

    The anaesthetist stays and looks after you the whole time while you have your pictures. When all your pictures are finished, the anaesthetist will help you to wake up. When you wake up, you might be in a room with lots of beds called ‘Recovery’. Nurses will look after you while you wake up – and your parents will be there as well. You can have something to drink and an icy pole too. The nurses will look after you until you are ready to go home.

    What parents need to know

    How do I know if my child is going to have a general anaesthetic?

    If your child is going to have a general anaesthetic it will be noted as a ‘general anaesthetic’ or ‘GA’ on the appointment letter. If there is no mention of general anaesthesia or GA on the letter, you can presume your child has not been booked for a GA scan.

    What should I do if I think my child will need a general anaesthetic?

    There are a number of reasons why your child may need a general anaesthetic. This can depend on the scans being requested, or due to (but not limited to) anxiety, age, medical conditions or developmental delay. If you feel that your child will require a GA but has not been booked for one, please contact Medical Imaging reception on 03 9345 5255. Please note that a general anaesthetic is not appropriate for ultrasounds, X-rays, OPG and CEPH scans, or fluoroscopy appointments.

    What do I need to do before the appointment?

    You should receive a ‘RCH Health Questionnaire’ in the mail with your appointment letter. Please return this questionnaire to the hospital prior to your appointment. If you have any concerns about your child receiving a general anaesthetic, please contact the Pre-Admission Resource Centre (PARC) on 03 9345 4115.

    If your child requires a general anaesthetic, they must be fasted prior to their appointment. Please follow the fasting guidelines on your appointment letter. It is also a good idea to bring some quiet activities that don’t take up too much space to keep your child busy while waiting for their appointment.

    Why is fasting important?

    Fasting is important as it ensures your child's stomach is empty. If your child's stomach has food or drink in it, there is a risk of vomiting or regurgitation (bringing food up into their throat). This can lead to food entering your child’s lungs, causing a lung infection or affecting their ability to breathe.

    What should I tell my child?

    It is important to be honest but considerate of your child’s developmental level. It is a good idea to start by explaining to your child why they need the scan. Explain that having a general anaesthetic will make sure they stay safe, comfortable and still, allowing the people at the hospital to get the best pictures. Children over the age of 5 generally cope best when they are informed of their procedure the week prior, and are given the opportunity to process the information and ask questions. Children under 5 are best told about their appointment the day before. You are encouraged to explore the Okee app games and to discuss the content with your child before their appointment.

    How long will we need to be at the hospital for?

    You will usually be required to be at the hospital at least an hour prior to the scan. This time allows staff to prepare your child for their general anaesthetic. Imaging can take from 15 to 90 minutes or longer depending on the type of study, please check with Medical Imaging reception. After imaging, nursing staff will monitor your child until they are safe to go home – this can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on how your child recovers. Given the time required, it is not suitable to bring siblings to the appointment.

    My child has an awake scan booked. Why can’t they have a GA on this day if they need it?

    Having a general anaesthetic requires significant preparation, including adequate fasting and booking of specialist staff including anaesthetists.

    For any other questions about your child’s general anaesthetic, please contact PARC on 03 9345 4115.

    For any other questions about your child’s scans, please contact Medical Imaging reception on 03 9345 5255.