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Your Child’s Surgery

Parent’s surgery frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Why can’t my​ child eat or drink before surgery?

Your child is having a general anesthetic. This is medicine that prevents your child from waking up or feeling anything during surgery. While your child is under a general anesthetic, any food or liquid in their stomach could back up into the throat and lungs and cause problems. To keep this from happening your child’s stomach must be empty for surgery. If your child doesn’t follow the instructions for eating and drinking, your child won’t be able to have surgery. It will need to be changed to another day.

My child will have an empty stomach for a long time. What can I do?

Give your child a light snack before 12 a.m. (midnight) such as one of the following:

  • 1 small piece of fruit and ½ cup cereal with ½ cup milk
  • 1 bowl of soup with 1 slice of toast (no butter or margarine) and jam
  • ½ cup of yogurt and a small banana
  • 1 slice of cheese with crackers

You can give your child clear fluids (fluids that you can see through) until the time the healthcare team has told you to stop. Clear apple juice without pulp and water are best.

Will my child be able to eat after surgery?

Most children can drink fluids after surgery. As soon as your child’s doctor says that it’s OK the healthcare team will give your child ice chips or small sips of water to start.

Once your child is more awake, and doesn’t have an upset stomach or throwing up, your child may be able to have dairy products and solid foods. Always check with your child’s nurse before you give anything to eat or drink while they are in the hospital.

When do I need to call my child’s surgeon?

Call the surgeon if:

  • you have questions about the consent that you signed or the surgery (Please call several days before surgery.)
  • your child is sick or has a fever the day before surgery (Call as soon as you notice that your child is sick.)
  • your phone number or mailing address changes

Can I go into the operating room with my child?

You may be able to go into the operating room with your child. The anesthesiologist (a specially trained doctor who will give your child medicine to keep them from feeling pain or waking up during surgery) will tell you if you can do this on the day of the surgery. You won’t be allowed to stay in the operating room for the whole time.

If you’re able to go into the operating room, it’s important that you listen carefully to your child’s healthcare team. You are there to comfort and reassure your child while the healthcare team gets your child ready for surgery.

Why do we have to be at the hospital so early?

There’s a lot that needs to happen to get your child ready for surgery. The admission, safety checklists, and other things take time. Your child also needs time to get used to the new surroundings so that they’ll be more comfortable. When you come a few hours before your child’s surgery it helps make sure they are safe.

Why didn’t my child go to the operating room at the time planned?

Sometimes the hospital has emergency surgeries or last-minute cancellations. This means your child’s operating room time may start earlier or later than planned. Your nurse will tell you if your child’s surgery time changes.

Can I be with my child when they wake up?

Parents may be asked to come into the post anesthetic care unit (PACU or recovery room) to be with their child. This depends on:

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

If you aren’t asked to go into the PACU, the team will make sure you and your child are together as soon as possible.

My child is having a day surgery. How long will I be at the hospital?

Every child’s recovery from surgery is different. If your child is having day surgery, plan to be at the hospital for at least 5 hours.​​

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