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No matter how simple or complex your child's operation will be, we understand how you may feel: No procedure is small when it's your child. But, while it might be foreign to you, at Children's Hospital Colorado, we perform nearly 25,000 surgeries each year. Every one of our team members is specially trained to meet the needs of your child and your family. Rest assured, you are in the best hands.
The best way to prepare is to know as much as possible about what will happen and to share that information, in an appropriate way, with your child and their siblings. You'll want to know all about your child's condition or illness, the procedure, and how to find your way around the hospital. Your family will want to know what to expect too, so we've provided some hints and tips for talking to them.
The video below helps you understand what to expect from surgery.
The presurgery tour at Children's Hospital Colorado will help you and your child envision what the day of the operation will be like. Many parents and patients believe the tour was the best way to understand what happens before, during and after the operation. Knowing what to expect helped them feel much calmer and more relaxed on the day of the procedure.
Presurgery 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. Our specialists 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.
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.
Please call 720-777-3991 or email us with two tour options that will work for you. We will contact you within a few days to confirm a date and a time. Please note that presurgery tours are only available at our hospital on Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.
Please provide the following information in your email:
Based on our experience, the more parents know about what to expect, the better parents and kids will feel. If you are nervous or frightened, your child will pick up on it. So, do everything you can to feel as confident and calm as possible.
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. Staff librarians are on hand to help you find exactly what you need.
Ask your child's surgeon or family doctor to help explain your child's condition,the procedure and what to expect. These questions can help get the conversation started:
Don't underestimate the toll that stress and worry can take on you. Spend time with family and friends and share your feelings. Make sure you are well-rested and well-fed — your child will be counting on you for support and comfort.
Talk to parents whose children have also had operations. They can help prepare you for what's ahead and offer the support you may need.
Involve your child, the rest of the family and, if you like, a friend or two. Let your child know how exciting it will be to come home. Pick a special movie or meal, let siblings decorate the house and concentrate on how fun it will be to have everyone home together.
Infants and toddlers
Very young children need little preparation. They do, however, quickly pick up on parents' emotions. Your confidence will help reassure your child. At this age, children have little concept of time, so don't begin talking about the hospital until a day or two before the operation.
Preschool and young school-age children
Talk to your child about going to the hospital three to five days before the operation. It's important to give your child time to think it over and ask questions. At this age, you’ll want to be sure your child knows it is not their fault and that they will feel better after the operation.
Older school-age children and adolescents
Discuss the operation with your older child as soon as it is scheduled. Talk to your child again about four to five days prior, answering any questions they might have. At this age, let your child make as many decisions about the procedure as possible. Also, respect your child's need for some control over who you tell about their condition and procedure.
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.
Use familiar words.
For younger children, use nonthreatening words your child understands. For example, say "sore" instead of "pain." When describing an "anesthesiologist," you might say "sleep doctor." Say "small opening" instead of "incision." Older children 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 operation and that, while they recover, activities and school can be scheduled around their needs.
Let your child know you will be at the hospital the whole time and you will take them home afterward.
Your child's operation can also be scary and cause tension for siblings or your child's close friends. Try to include them in conversations about your child's operation so they feel confident, too.
Children are accepted to the Creative Play Center on a first-come-first-served basis. Call 720-777-1234 for more information.
PLEASE NOTE: Siblings who are sick should stay at home. They cannot be permitted in any pre-surgical area or the hospital in general. Germs are easily spread and can be harmful to patients having operations.
Anesthesia is the use of medicines called anesthetics to make your child unable to feel pain during an operation or procedure. General anesthesia is like being asleep because your child is unconscious; however, it is different from natural sleep. Your child will not wake up until the anesthetic is turned off or the medicines wear off.
If your child is going to have surgery or a procedure at Children's Hospital Colorado, the anesthesia team will first review your child's medical record and details of the operation or procedure. Members of the anesthesia team will meet with you and your child to ask additional questions and review your child's medical history. They will explain what anesthetic we plan to use and answer any questions you may have.
Depending on the type of surgery or procedure, your anesthesia team may speak with you about different types of anesthesia, such as:
Sometimes these different kinds of anesthetics are used in combination.
Induction is the procedure where we give medicines to make your child lose consciousness. In children who do not already have an IV, we usually induce anesthesia by having your child breathe through a mask. The anesthetic has a funny smell, but we add flavors in the mask to make it smell better.
With inhaled anesthetics, the induction is very fast. After as little as 30 to 45 seconds, your child will no longer remember what happens. If your child is over 1 year old, you may be able to stay with them during induction to help them feel more comfortable with the process.
For older children, our team will consider factors like your child's age, previous health history, the type of surgery or procedure, and your comfort level when deciding whether you can be in the room during induction. If you cannot be with your child for induction of anesthesia, we will discuss other helpful alternatives like coping mechanisms or relaxing medicines. Your anesthesiology team can help you decide what's best for your child and family.
After induction, we usually put an IV in a vein in your child's hand, arm or foot. We will give anesthetic medicine during the entire operation or procedure to maximize safety and comfort. We will continuously monitor all your child's vital functions, including heartbeat, blood pressure, breathing and oxygen levels during every moment of the surgery or procedure.
Often the anesthetic is a combination of medicines, some that your child breathes and some medicines that go in an IV. Sometimes we give medicines called local anesthetics to the area of surgery so that it is numb after the operation to make your child more comfortable. At the end of the operation, we will stop giving the medicines and your child will slowly wake up.
Your child will wake up in the recovery room or post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) with a specially trained recovery nurse at the bedside. You are usually reunited with your child when they are waking up. The recovery nurse will give any additional medicine needed and watch your child until they are ready for discharge.
The following side effects may happen when your child wakes up from anesthesia. They are not harmful and will go away within a few hours or a few days:
Severe reactions to anesthesia are very rare. The most severe – and the rarest – can be life-threatening. Parents feel comfortable knowing that Children's Hospital Colorado is one of the top pediatric hospitals in the nation, and our anesthesiology team members have the skills and experience to keep your child as safe as possible.
For questions, call the Anesthesiology Department at 720-777-6226.
Your surgeon will tell you if your child may need extra blood during the operation. If so, we have a full-service Blood Donor Center to meet your child's needs. We also encourage parents and friends to donate blood, as it's a great way to support your child, and it helps maintain the supply of blood for all the children in the hospital.
Directed donations are made by people known to the patient or parents. These donations should be made at least three days before the operation so that all testing may be completed in time.
Autologous (self) donations are an option for some patients. A patient can donate their own blood to be stored and used during their surgery or operation. Contact our Blood Donor Center at 720-777-1234 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
Like many other visits to Children's Colorado, you will need to pre-register your child for their surgery appointment. A staff member from Surgery Registration will call you at least three days before your child's appointment to confirm that the necessary information is complete and correct. Please have the following information handy:
Be sure to confirm the location of your child's surgery.
If your child becomes sick within the week before the operation, call the surgery department. Tell the surgeon about important health changes such as fever, cold or flu symptoms. You should also call if your child is exposed to chicken pox, measles, strep throat or other illness within three weeks before surgery. Your child's surgeon may want to reschedule the appointment based on how your child is doing.
Follow these rules before your child's surgery or procedure to make sure their stomach is empty at the time of anesthesia. If your child's stomach is not empty at the time of anesthesia, stomach contents can come up and enter the lungs (called aspiration). Aspiration can cause serious problems.
|Type of food and drink||Child can have until:|
|Solid foods (for example, meat, eggs, yogurt and bread)||8 hours before arrival for surgery or procedure|
||6 hours before arrival for surgery or procedure|
|Breast milk||4 hours before arrival for surgery or procedure|
||2 hours before arrival for surgery or procedure|
||2 hours before arrival for surgery or procedure|
|Gum, candy or mints||Do not give to your child on the day they are having anesthesia.|
Both of Lora's daughters had tonsillectomy surgery. Now she's sharing advice on everything from anesthesia to recovery with another family about to go through it.