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How to Prepare for Pediatric Surgery

We know a successful surgery includes focused preparation, detailed execution and post-surgery attention.

Our child life specialists will explain the surgical process in a way your child will understand, as well as provide emotional and educational support during your child’s stay at the hospital, including pre-surgery tours, medical preparation and support during a procedure.

We take care of the details to get your child ready for surgery so your focus can remain where it should be - on your child.

Talking to Your Child About Surgery

Kids will often pick up emotional cues from their parents. If you’re calm and confident, your child will be more relaxed, too. Here are tips to help you talk with your child about surgery and ways to make their experience less stressful:

Infants & Toddlers (ages 0-2): Toddlers understand time differently than adults. That’s why we suggest you tell your child about surgery only a few days before. We also recommend you bring a pacifier, favorite blanket, doll or stuffed animal to help comfort your child.

Preschoolers (ages 3-5): Preschoolers are old enough to be curious about their surroundings and what’s happening, so it can be helpful to tell your child about surgery a few days to a week in advance. Use words such as “fix” or “make it better” during your talk and answer any questions your child may have.

School-age (ages 6-10): If your child is in grade school, it can be helpful to tell them about the surgery at least a week in advance and explain what will happen the day of. You can tell your child about the pediatric specialists who will make sure they will stay asleep during the surgery and help manage pain after. Let your child know the nurses and doctors want to answer any questions they have during pre-surgery visits.

Teens: Talk with and include your teen in the decision-making process from the beginning. It’s important for kids this age to maintain their independence and sense of control. We encourage them to ask their surgical team any questions they may have during the process.

What to Do Before Surgery

We’ll help you take care of the details necessary to prepare for your child’s procedure and make it as quick and easy as possible.

Registration: To save time on surgery day, register your child online beforehand and provide the necessary insurance and contact information. You can also register by phone, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please register your child as soon as the surgery is scheduled or at least 2 days before the procedure. Also, be sure to check with your insurance company to authorize your child’s procedure.

Pre-Admission Interview: A nurse will contact you a few days before your child’s surgery to answer any questions, review your child’s health history and ask about any medicines your child takes. To protect your child and other patients from highly contagious illnesses, let the nurse know if your child has a cold, cough, fever, pink eye (conjunctivitis), chickenpox, measles, COVID-19 or has recently been exposed to chickenpox or measles or COVID-19. The nurse will also need to know about guardianship arrangements, such as foster care or custody issues, so the correct legal guardian can sign the consent form.

Pre-Surgery Tests: Your child’s pediatric specialist may require blood work or x-rays before surgery. Tests must take place 72 hours before surgery, so schedule and complete them within the proper time frame. If the test is done through a primary care physician and not your pediatric surgeon, please request a copy of the results be sent to the surgeon or bring a copy with you on the day of surgery.

Pre-Surgery Checklist

Use this checklist to help make your child’s surgery day less hectic and make it easier for you to focus on your child.

Before Surgery

  • Complete the pre-surgery admission interview. If a nurse hasn’t called you within 48 hours of your child’s surgery, call the hospital.
  • If your child takes medications, talk to your pediatric surgeon about how they should be taken before surgery.
  • Arrange childcare for other children while you’re at the hospital or surgery center.
  • Check with your insurance provider if you have questions about your copayment or deductible.
  • Call your pediatric surgeon if your child has symptoms of a cold, the flu, a rash or any other illness or infection.
  • Your child shouldn’t bring jewelry or use make-up, nail polish or deodorant the day of surgery.

Your child’s pediatric surgeon will also give you guidelines for what your child can eat or drink before surgery. Generally, your child should not have:

  • Food 8 hours before
  • Full liquids (soups, smoothies and juices) and milk 6 hours before
  • Breast milk (infants) 4 hours before
  • Clear liquids 2 hours before

What to Bring on Surgery Day

Our experienced team of surgical specialists has created a list of items you may want to bring with you on the day of surgery. These include:

  • Comfortable clothes for your child
  • A favorite toy or blanket
  • A special bottle or cup
  • Contact or glasses case if your child wears either
  • Personal music devices or hand-held video games
  • Medical charts or test results the surgeon doesn’t have
  • Your insurance card, photo ID and copayment if you have one
  • Any medications your child is taking

What NOT to Bring

For your child’s safety, certain items are not allowed in the operating room. These include:

  • Nail polish
  • Cosmetics
  • Jewelry
  • Glasses/contacts

If your child wears glasses or contacts, please bring the proper storage containers with you.