Children's Hospital Colorado

Resources for the Center for Children’s Surgery

Dr. Duncan Wilcox, Surgeon-in-Chief, performing surgery with other healthcare providers in the operating room

Whether your child’s operation is simple or complex, we know that no procedure is small when it's your child. At Children’s Hospital Colorado, our experts help you understand what to expect and ease your concerns.

Our team of leading pediatric surgeons performs over 25,000 surgeries each year. We focus on treating only children, and all our team members are specially trained to meet your child’s needs. Rest assured that your family is in good hands.

Preparing for your child’s surgery

Each surgery is unique based on the condition we’re treating, your child’s needs and their medical history. No matter what kind of surgery your child is receiving, there are several things your family can do to prepare.

This video helps you and your child understand what to expect from surgery at our hospital:

Research your child's condition and operation

Children's Colorado on Anschutz Medical Campus is home to one of the area's best health libraries: the Melvin and Elaine Wolf Foundation Family Health Library. Located on the first floor of the hospital, the library has information on illnesses, wellness and parenting and in-depth research on medical conditions.

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Staff librarians are available to help you find exactly what you need. We will work with you to understand a condition or procedure and will continue to partner with you and be a resource even after your stay at our hospital is over. We can also email you resources if you're not at our hospital on Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

What to know before, during and after surgery

The best way to prepare for your child's surgery is to know as much as possible about what will happen, and to share that information in an age-appropriate way with your child and your family. To help you plan for your child's procedure, here's what to expect before, during and after your visit.

Talk to your child about what to expect

Your child will likely be scared or have concerns when they learn they need surgery. It's important to address their feelings and worries and to talk openly about what they can expect. This will help them prepare mentally and emotionally and can make the day of surgery go more smoothly.

  • Be honest: If your child asks a question and you don't know the answer, tell them you don't know, but you will try to find the answer. Answer them honestly if they ask if it will hurt and tell them where it might hurt and that our team will be with them the whole time and will do everything we can do to make them comfortable.

  • Use familiar words: For younger children, use nonthreatening words your child understands. For example, say "sore" instead of "painful." When describing an "anesthesiologist," you might say "sleep doctor" or "small opening" instead of "incision." Older children, however, may want you to explain things in a more straightforward manner.

  • Talk about how the operation will help your child: Let them know they will feel better after the surgery and that, while they recover, activities and school can be scheduled around their needs.
  • Explain why: Make sure your child understands why they need the surgery, the role doctors and nurses will play, and that it's okay to be scared. Make sure they understand that the hospital stay is temporary.
  • Talk about who you'll meet: Talk about the types of healthcare professionals they might meet during their visit (like doctors, nurses and therapists) and explain that these people care for kids just like you every day, and they will make sure you get better quickly.
  • Explain how they may feel: Discuss how your child might feel during the stay, whether they may be tired, have an upset stomach or where they might feel some discomfort.
  • Talk about what hospitals are like: Many children find it reassuring to talk about the similarities between the hospital and home. You can explain that there will be regular meals, chances to play and they will have their own room.
  • Talk about other patients: Talk about some of the other children that your child may meet. It can be unsettling to see people who are sick but remind your child that other kids at the hospital are there to get better too, and that they like to play and laugh just like your child.
  • Read books that help: Pick up a few books from the Family Health Library or your local bookstore that talk about going to the hospital and read them together. Some of our favorites include Curious George Goes to the Hospital and This is a Hospital, Not a Zoo!
  • Let your child know you will be at the hospital the whole time and you will take them home afterward: One of the biggest fears children have is being alone, but you can put this worry to bed.

Take a surgery preparation tour with your child

The pre-surgery tour at Children's Colorado will help you and your child envision what the day of the operation will be like. Many parents and patients believe the tour is the best way to understand what happens before, during and after the operation. Knowing what to expect helps children and their parents feel much more comfortable about the procedure.

Pre-surgery tours are led by our child life specialists. Child life specialists have special training to discuss the surgery with your child in a non-threatening and age-appropriate manner. These experts are sensitive to your child's needs and make every effort to make the hospital environment feel comfortable to your child.

The tour takes about one hour. During the tour, you will see an operating room, become familiar with the layout of the hospital, and have a chance to talk about what happens on the day of surgery, including the anesthesia or "special sleep medicine."

When to tour the hospital

Generally, younger kids have a shorter memory, so it's best to tour the hospital closer to the date of surgery. Older kids do better with more time to prepare – so it's a good idea to tour the hospital with them further in advance of the surgery. The following age guidelines can help you decide when to schedule your tour.

  • 2 to 4 years old: Parents are encouraged to view the pre-surgery video.
  • 5 to 9 years old: Schedule a tour 1 to 5 days before the operation.
  • 10 to 17 years old: Schedule a tour 7 to 10 days before the operation.
  • 18 and older: Schedule a tour 1 to 2 weeks before the operation.

Make a reservation for the tour

We will contact you within a few days to confirm a date and a time.

Please provide the following information in your email:

  • Your first and last name
  • Your child's first and last name
  • Child's age and date of birth
  • Location of operation or procedure
  • Type of operation
  • Date of operation
  • Two preferred dates for the tour
  • The number of people who will attend the tour (limited to patient and parents/guardians)
  • Your name and a phone number where you can be reached Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Important surgery tour tips

  • Arrive a few minutes early, as we start the tours promptly.
  • Tours last approximately one hour.
  • Please limit the number of people in your tour to immediate family members only (parents/guardians).
  • During visitor restriction periods (e.g., flu season), siblings are not allowed on tours or in the hospital.
  • Please note that it is important to schedule your tour as soon as possible to ensure your preferred date.
  • Occasionally, we may need to cancel tours due to hospital activities or department scheduling conflicts. If we have to cancel your tour, we will contact you with other available options.

If you need to cancel your tour, please do so as soon as possible. Email us at SurgeryTours@childrenscolorado.org or call 720-777-3991.