Ways you can prepare
- Read our answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about surgery for kids and for parents.
- Learn about how to talk to your child about surgery by using child-friendly words and phrases.
- Learn more about anesthesia and sedation.
- Tour the hospital before the surgery with Operation Sneak-a-Peek.
- Learn about the Outpatient Surgery Center (OSC) at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where same-day surgeries happen.
- Read age-appropriate information about ways to reduce, and possibly avoid, causing anxiety for your child as you prepare for surgery.
- See a list of recommended books about preparing for surgery and other topics.
Before, during, and after surgery
The following sections describe what happens the day before surgery and the day of surgery.
The day before surgery
- A nurse will call you to review pre-operative instructions. These will include the guidelines for eating and drinking before surgery. The nurse will also be able to answer your 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 and then to your child's hospital room. What happens next depends on the individual needs of your child, but, in general, your child can expect to:
- Change into a hospital gown*
- Meet the nurse / patient care technician
- Receive an ID bracelet with his or 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 your child 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 the OR (operating room) nurse
- Go to the bathroom before surgery
*Once your child has changed, there is a playroom that you may go to while you and your child wait for the doctors.
Before falling asleep
When it's time for surgery, your child will be taken to the procedure area (for example, the operating room, or the endoscopy or cath lab). At this time, 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 until he or she has fallen asleep.
Before your child falls asleep, the OR nurse will place stickers on your child's chest and finger (this does not hurt, but may feel cold). These stickers 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 (intravenously, in the vein) and some medicines are given as an inhalant through a mask. Some say this medicine smells like magic marker or nail polish remover.
To learn more about your child's possible experiences with anesthesia or sedation, please see Anesthesia and Sedation FAQs.
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 your child's 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 or 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.