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Health Information and Tools > Your Child's Surgery > At the hospital >  Post-anesthetic care unit (PACU)
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Your Child’s Surgery

Post-anesthetic care unit (PACU)

After surgery, your child will go to the post-anesthetic care unit (PACU) where they will wake up from the general anesthesia. The PACU is also called the recovery room or wake-up room.

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Nurses in the PACU are specially trained to closely watch your child and make sure they wake up safely after surgery. Before your child leaves this unit, the nurses will:

  • manage your child’s pain and nausea (upset stomach)
  • check your child’s breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen level to make sure they’re normal
  • make sure the area of your child’s surgery has the proper dressing and looks like it should

How long will my child be in the PACU?

It’s hard to predict how long your child will be in the PACU. Your child may take up to an hour to wake up but it’s not unusual for it to take longer.

If you’re concerned that your child is in the PACU longer than you expected, ask the staff where you’re waiting for an update on how your child is doing. Always keep your phone on and with you in case someone from the hospital calls.

How will my child look right after surgery?

You may notice a few things that are different when you see your child for the first time after surgery. Don’t be surprised or worried. Your child may:

  • have an intravenous (IV)
  • be connected to a monitor
  • be sleepy (but easy to wake up)
  • have a sore throat
  • be upset or crying
  • have an upset stomach
  • be getting oxygen by mask or a tube by their nose
  • be confused
  • look puffy or swollen
  • be shivering (this can be a side effect of the medicine they got during surgery)

If you are worried about your child after surgery, please talk to your nurse or surgeon.

Can I be with my child when they wake up?

You may be asked to come into the PACU to be with your child once they are awake. It doesn’t mean that something is wrong. Your child may just need you to comfort them.

Not every parent will be asked to go into the PACU. If you don’t go in, the team will make sure you and your child are together as soon as possible.

Being asked to come in to PACU depends on:

  • the needs of your child in the PACU
  • how long your child will be in PACU

What can I do to prepare my child for waking up after surgery?

To help your child feel more comfortable waking up after surgery in the PACU:

  • send your child’s favourite blanket, small stuffed animal, or soother with them to have after surgery
  • tell your child that you’ll see them soon after they wake up

Tell your child that they may have some pain after surgery. Let your child’s nurse know if you have any worries about your child’s comfort. Ask questions so you know what to expect.​​

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