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My child’s going into surgery! What do I need to know?

Scared because your child needs to have surgery? We’re with you. No parent wants their child to go into an operating room, but when surgery has to happen, it’s best to talk it out and prepare. Here are some of the top questions that our surgeons and child life staff are asked, both to assure you and so you can assure your child.

1) Is it safe to put my child to sleep during surgery?

If you’re thinking you’re the only parent to wonder about anesthesia and its safety, know that this is actually the top question surgeons get from parents. The answer overwhelmingly is yes. Anesthesia today is very advanced and is based on carefully researched best practices to make sure it’s safe and effective for both children and adults. But one of the best things about our children’s hospital is that we offer pediatric anesthesiologists who are specially trained and only take care of kids. That kind of pediatric experience and training makes any procedure even safer.

2) Will my child be in pain after surgery?

Your child may have some discomfort after surgery, but our goal is to provide excellent pain control. Our team of surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses will work with you to make sure your child is comfortable. Typically, pain medicine will be given through an IV, although sometimes your child may need to swallow a pill or liquid medicine.

3) Is bleeding after surgery normal?

There may be a very small amount of bleeding and scabbing, but for the most part, bleeding should definitely not happen after surgery. If your child has any bleeding—even a small amount—make sure to tell your nurse or doctor right away.

4) How long will the surgery last?

Waiting for your child while he or she is in surgery can feel like an eternity. Your child’s surgery will be scheduled for a certain length of time. It can sometimes take longer, and it can sometimes be quicker, but your OR nurse will call in to the main OR desk to provide you with updates while your child is in the operating room, including how everything is going and if the surgery is almost finished.

5) At what points will I be separated from my child?

This is also a big stressor for parents, whether their child is a newborn or 18 years old. You will be with your child the entire time during the preparation for surgery, until it’s time for your child to go through the big doors into the main (and sterile) OR. When your child is in recovery, a nurse will bring you back to that area.

6) If my child is being admitted to the hospital after surgery, can I stay with my child in the hospital room?

Yes, definitely! We welcome and encourage parents to stay with their children 24/7 if they choose. Every room in the Children’s Hospital of Georgia includes a pullout sofa so parents have a comfortable place to sleep. We also provide a small common kitchen area and laundry room.

7) What should I bring from home to help comfort my child during a hospital stay?

Your child’s own pillow, a favorite stuffed animal and a soft blanket are great items to help your child feel more at home at the hospital. We also have free WiFi so children can check email or play games on your smartphone or iPad.

Plus, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia has a full-time team of child life specialists who work with families to help make the hospital stay more fun. Child life can bring toys and games to your child’s room or introduce you to our indoor playroom and playground, if your child is able to leave the room. When many children are asked about their hospital stay here, most of them best remember the toys and games from Child Life!

8) What about after my child leaves the hospital? What do I need to do for him or her at home?

Every case is different, so make sure to talk to your doctor about when your child can return to school or sports, what kinds of pain medications might be needed, any concerning signs or symptoms you should watch out for, and anything else that you should keep in mind. And if you have any questions when you are at home, make sure to reach back out so that your child’s medical team can help.

At Children’s Hospital of Georgia, our board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric surgical specialists care for children of all ages for both routine and very complex surgical needs. And in Augusta, families have access to convenient housing locations such as Ronald McDonald House so parents can be close by for surgery and through recovery. To learn more about our pediatric surgery group visit augustahealth.org/pediatric-surgery

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.

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