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Living with Autism


March 15, 2017

Autism and Dental Anesthesia

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 Research shows, however, that people with autism have negative reactions and delayed recovery to Ketamine and Nitrous Oxide during anesthesia.

Giving anesthesia to patients with autism is challenging, especially if they have epilepsy.

Epilepsy affects near 30% of all people with autism spectrum disorder.

Most common agents used in dental anesthesia are often toxic to the brain, posing an elevated risk for patients with autism or/and epilepsy.

For example,

1. Nitrous oxide often causes severe headaches, behavioral and neurological regression, ataxia, nystagmus and prolonged agitation in people with autism.

2. Ketamine alters sensory perception, triggers delirium, delays recovery, increases aberrant behavior post recovery. Ketamine may be helpful in acute behavioral crisis where you must sedate to get medical tests to rule out underlying illness or injury associated with a behavioral crisis, but overall, try to avoid Ketamine in autism. Ketamine can also trigger seizures in people with autism and epilepsy. It should only be used in extreme, extremely unique situations where it's critical to sedate.

There are safer options to try.

Here's a drug cocktail used TWICE that went very well with our autistic son who has autism and epilepsy. Excellent recovery. NO increased agitation or self-injurious behavior. No delirium. Best of all, he recovered about 85% quicker than when he was given ketamine or nitrous oxide:


Propofol, Fentanyl, Decadron, Zofran, Ketorolac and an IM B-12 injection given PRIOR to anesthesia. B-12 was genius as it's known to offset oxidative stress in the brain during anesthesia.

Additional notes:
My son's dental anesthesia was performed in a hospital setting. This is safer, in case there is an emergency that requires elevated medical intervention. Anesthesiologist was a double board certified doctor. I would not, personally, trust a nurse anesthesiologist to oversee my autistic son during anesthesia. I want a medical doctor with higher training. Sorry, if this offends anyone, but this isn't like working at Starbucks where if you mess up a Coffee Latte, someone just burns their tongue or needs more sugar. You mess up in the medical field, and people can die, so damn right I want the best for my vulnerable autistic son.

Another thing to remember is follow all preanesthesia protocol. If the doctor instructs you not to let your autistic child drink or eat before anesthesia, it's for a good reason, so they don't aspirate. Follow the instructions. This means you may have to deal with extreme tantrums before going under anesthesia, as we all know our autistic children don't like being denied food and drink.

Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor or a nurse. I'm an autism mom and advocate, so please discuss any medical issues with your child's doctor or anesthesiologist, if you have any questions or concerns.

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