Department of Anesthesia

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The anesthesiologists at Boston Children’s Hospital specialize in the care of children of all ages—from newborn to teenagers—during surgery. Our goal is to make the hospital experience as pleasant as we can: to help manage your child’s anxiety before surgery, as well as his or her pain after surgery—plus support critical bodily functions and minimize the risks associated with surgery.

The Anesthesia Department at Boston Children’s includes:

  • The Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Center: an intensive rehabilitation program that serves the needs of children and adolescents with chronic musculoskeletal and neuropathic pain
  • Sedation Services: sedation services for children who must undergo painful or scary procedures
  • Medical Acupuncture Service: acute and chronic pain management through acupuncture
  • Cardiac Anesthesia Services: anesthesia and pain management for cardiac (heart), thoracic (lungs) or vascular (blood vessels) surgeries
  • Pain Treatment Services: treatment and support for acute and chronic pain, mostly post-operative

Our expertise

Physicians at Boston Children’s continually re-examine the standard methods of anesthesiology and work to develop better, more reliable practices for protecting heart, lung and brain function and blood circulation during anesthesia. Our record of innovation and publication has earned us top recognition.

  • Anesthesia Department faculty are currently researching how to prevent post-operative nausea and vomiting.
  • In the Pain Treatment research laboratory, investigators are looking into the development of timed-release systems for local anesthetics that can provide prolonged analgesia for days or weeks following injection or implantation.
  • Boston Children’s Pain Treatment Services has become a referral center for children with many types of neuropathic pain, but especially limb pain associated with signs of abnormal circulation, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy. The chief of the division, Charles Berde, MD, has received several awards and honors for his pioneering work in pediatric pain relief, including the 2003 Scientific Achievement Award of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association. He was also profiled as one of Time Magazine's “Heroes in Medicine” in 1997.
  • Pain Treatment Services is the most clinically active pediatric pain program in the world.
  • The Pediatric Pain Rehabilitation Center is the most comprehensive stand-alone, day hospital program of its kind in the United States, offering intensive multidisciplinary rehabilitation to children and adolescents who have not responded to traditional outpatient treatment.



Does anesthesia affect the developing brain?

Giving anesthesia to newborns is always risky because their immature physiology increases the chance of complications. In addition to the short-term risks, there is growing concern about possible neurotoxic effects on brain development that could cause long-term behavioral and cognitive problems.

Mary Ellen McCann, MD, MPH, is collaborating with researchers in Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom to investigate the long-term effects of two commonly used modes of anesthesia—spinal and general. Mary Ellen McCann, MD, an anesthesiologist at Children's has initiated a study to compare regional (localized) anesthesia with general anesthesia in young children.




At Boston Children’s Hospital , we aim to solve some of the world’s greatest pediatric health problems. Some ways we do this stem from scientific research: Understanding diseases deeply—even at the cellular or molecular level—leads to new drugs and therapies. Other discoveries arise from moments spent at patients’ bedsides, when doctors and nurses see opportunities to improve care. This approach, which we call “clinical innovations,” often requires us to develop entirely new tools or come up with inventive strategies. This creative form of innovation is the path by which many major improvements in health care have been made.


Quality and safety


At Boston Children’s Hospital , we believe that patients and families deserve to know whether the hospital where they have chosen to receive their care meets the highest standards and is committed to excellence.  Through our Program for Patient Safety and Quality, we continually monitor and improve the care we provide to our patients. Since the diseases and chronic conditions that affect children and adolescents are quite different from those of adults, it is often not appropriate to use adult measures to evaluate the quality of pediatric care.  That’s why we have taken a leadership role in developing scientifically sound methods to measure the quality of care provided to all children and adolescents.


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The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO