About General Anesthesia

Your child is having a test or procedure that requires general anesthesia (medication that helps your child fall asleep safely and comfortably during a test, procedure or surgery). The total time for the test or procedure varies, depending on what your child is having done. The overall time for preparation for general anesthesia is about 1 hour. There will be a recovery time after the test or procedure of about 1-3 hours. A parent or legal guardian is required to stay at the hospital during this time.

How to Prepare: Before the Test or Procedure

Eating & Drinking

  • 8 hours before scheduled arrival time: Have your child stop eating solid food and dairy products.
  • The night before the test or procedure: Have your child stop chewing gum and eating candy.

For patients less than 1 year old

  • 6 hours before scheduled arrival time: Stop infant formula, oral feeds and tube feeds.
  • 4 hours before scheduled arrival time: Stop giving breast milk.

For patients more than 1 year old

  • 8 hours before scheduled arrival time: Stop infant formula, oral feeds, tube feeds and breast milk.
  • 2 hours before scheduled arrival time: Stop giving clear liquids and medications by mouth.
  • On the day of the test or procedure: Do not give vitamins or supplements until after your child returns home.

Clear liquids include:

  • Water
  • Fruit juice without pulp (apple, cranberry, grape)
  • Gatorade®, Powerade®, Pedialyte®

Personal Care

  • Have your child wear loose clothing. Please avoid Dri-FIT® clothing, onesies, shirts with decals and clothing with glitter/sequins.
  • If your child is scheduled to have an MRI, clothing should not have metal, including snaps, zippers or buckles.

For young children:

Please bring the following items with you on the day of your child’s test or procedure:

  • A change of clothing, including Pull-Ups® or diapers (if your child uses them)
  • Formula, a favorite cup or pacifier
  • A security item, such as a favorite toy or book (if they have one)
  • A stroller (if they use one)
  • Your child’s favorite snacks for after the test or procedure. At the hospital, the care team can offer crackers.
  • If your child has food allergies, bring allergy-friendly food.

For patients who menstruate:

  • All patients who have started menstruating or who are of a certain age will need to take a pregnancy test on the day of the test or procedure. Pregnancy testing is done through a urine sample.

Who to Bring

  • At least one parent or legal guardian should accompany your child throughout their trip to the hospital.
  • Do not bring other siblings, especially if they cannot be left alone.


  • If your child takes medications on a regular basis, ask your child’s pediatrician (or the doctor who is requesting the test procedure) about giving them before the test or procedure.
  • If the doctor tells you to give your child medications before the test or procedure, give them with clear liquids only.

Recovery and Going Home

  • It will take about 1-3 hours for your child to recover after the test or procedure.
  • Please arrange transportation home before you and your child come to the hospital. The care team does not recommend using public transportation.


  • If you have any questions, please call the Pediatric Imaging nurses at 617-724-4124 or visit Pediatric Imaging.

Rev. 5/2022. MassGeneral for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treat any medical conditions.