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Children's Hospital at Dartmouth Hitchcock (CHad)
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Preparing for Your Child's Surgery

Please see our answers to frequently asked questions about surgery for more advice on preparing for your child's surgery.

Learn more about what to expect from:

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Photo: Dr. Merguerian with child

How can we prepare?

This age-specific information provides ways to reduce, and possibly avoid, causing anxiety for your child as you prepare for surgery.

The day before surgery

A nurse will call to review pre-operative instructions; these will include the guidelines for eating and drinking before surgery. Your nurse will also be able to answer last minute questions or concerns. You may want to have your child choose a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or game to bring with you.

The day of surgery

After checking in at Admissions, you will be sent to the Pediatric Perioperative Program. Once in your child’s hospital room your child can expect to:

  • Change into a hospital gown.*
  • Meet the nurse / patient care technician.
  • Receive an ID bracelet with his/her name, birth date, and hospital number on it.
  • Have vital signs obtained, such as heart rate, temperature, and respiratory rate.
  • Meet with the child life specialist who will prepare him/her for what to expect and will answer any questions your child may have.
  • Be asked many of the same questions, including medical history and current health. This is to ensure that all the information in your child’s record is correct.
  • Meet with the Anesthesia team.
  • Meet with OR (operating room) nurse.
  • Go to the bathroom before surgery.
  • Go to procedure area: OR, endoscopy or cath lab, etc.
  • Return to Pediatric Perioperative Program to recover.
  • Return home.

*Once your child has changed, there is a playroom that you may go to while you and your child wait for the doctors.

Please keep in mind that your child’s visit may look different from the above. Our goal is to meet the individual needs of your child, so every visit will be slightly different.

Photo of playroom

Before falling asleep

When it is your child's turn to go to the operating room, you will need to separate from them. If the doctor says it's okay, one parent may be able to accompany his/her child into the OR (operating room) until he/she has fallen asleep.

Before falling asleep, the nurse in the OR will place stickers on your child's chest (this does not hurt, but may feel cold) and finger. These are used to monitor your child's heart. A blood pressure cuff will be placed around your child's arm.

Your child's anesthesiologist may use more than one medicine to help your child fall asleep. Some medicines are given through an IV and some medicines are given as an inhalant through a mask. Some say this medicine smells like magic marker or nail polish remover.

The effects of anesthesia

The recovery room

After your child's surgery, a staff member will bring your child to his or her recovery room. This is typically in the same area your child was in prior to surgery. The nurse will check pulse, temperature, and breathing often. Your child may wake up with an IV, oxygen mask, and bandage or dressing.

It is important that you and your child let the nurse know if you need anything. For example, if your child is sick to his/her stomach or has pain, please tell the nurse so we can help your child feel more comfortable.

When the nurse decides that your child is ready, you can come and stay with your child. When your child is awake and feels okay, he or she will either be brought to the inpatient pediatric unit or be discharged home.