how new guidelines will help parents pick the right surgery center

Over five million infants and children undergo some type of surgical procedure here in the U.S. every year. While the overwhelming majority of these operations proceed as planned, there are always certain dangers present when this demographic is on the operating table.

Research has shown that the use of anesthesia among pediatric patients can be especially risky. For example, anesthetized infants less than one-year-old are five times more likely to go into cardiac arrest than adults, and anesthetized newborns are nearly ten times more likely to go into cardiac arrest than adults.

The good news to all this, however, is that research has also shown that the risks associated with pediatric surgeries can be mitigated significantly when infants and children undergo the procedure in hospitals equipped with the necessary resources to provide surgical care for children. This includes pediatric specialists, neonatal intensive care units and specialized equipment.

Yet despite these advantages — less complications, improved survival rates and shorter stays — figures reveal that almost half of all surgical procedures performed on infants and children occur in general hospitals that cater largely to adults.

According to experts, a major reason for this problem is that parents are often lacking easily accessible information on how to pick the right hospital for their children.

Fortunately, this is now going to change thanks to the recent efforts of a task force headed by officials with the American College of Surgeons and the Children’s Hospital Association, which published a new classification system for pediatric surgery facilities this past spring.

These guidelines, modeled after those used to classify trauma centers since the 1970s, establish three tiers of pediatric surgical care. Those bearing a Level I classification are able to provide the highest levels of comprehensive care (i.e., staffed 24/7 with pediatric specialists, equipped with a Level IV NICU, etc.) and those bearing a Level III classification are able to provide basic surgical care (i.e., staffed with medical professionals with pediatric expertise, able to stabilize and transport children to Level I or II facilities, etc.).

“The goal is to see that every child in the United States receives care in a surgical environment matched to their individual medical, emotional and social needs,” said a task force member.

The task force has indicated that the verification process will begin early next year and that estimates show that close to 200 hospitals will likely seek to participate.

Here’s hoping these new guidelines prove valuable to concerned parents, providing them with the information they need and deserve during otherwise difficult times.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Programs aim to standardize surgical care for children,” Laura Landro, Sept. 1, 2014

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