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What the Parents Can Expect

Before Surgery | During Surgery | After Surgery

Most children who come to the Alberta Children's Hospital for their surgery are able to go home the same day. Others are admitted the day of surgery and stay for one or more nights on the Short Stay Surgical unit or an Inpatient Unit. Your surgeon will tell you whether your child will be staying overnight or going home the same day of surgery.

Before Surgery

Preparing to Leave Home

On the day of surgery, remind your child not to eat any food. Children cannot even chew gum or have candy before surgery. If your child has long hair, tie it back in a ponytail or place it in braids. Use only plain elastic bands (don't use metal clips). Your child may also find it easier to wear his or her glasses today, instead of contact lenses, as these will need to be removed before surgery.

Before leaving home, check that you have:

  • your child's belongings, packed in a small suitcase or backpack
  • your child's inhaler, diabetic, seizure, or heart medications
  • any medical supplies for feeding, suctioning, diabetes, etc.
  • a favourite toy, stuffed animal or blanket
  • any special sippy cup, bottle or nipple your child likes for after surgery
  • your child's Alberta Health card

Arriving at the Hospital

When you arrive at the hospital, please go to the Admitting desk, near the main entrance to register. Then take the elevators to the Short Stay Surgical Unit on the 3rd floor and check in with the staff at the front desk.

Getting Ready for Surgery

The nurses will start getting your child ready for surgery soon after you arrive. The nurse will listen to your child's heart and lungs, and check his or her temperature, blood pressure, weight and height. The nurse will ask you a few questions about your child's health; and give your child hospital pyjamas to change into and a name bracelet to wear. Once your child is ready for surgery, he or she can play with toys, read, or watch a movie. We will do our best to keep you informed of any delays in the schedule.

Meeting the Surgery Team

When it is almost time for surgery, the porter will take you and your child to the operating room holding area. Here you will meet with your surgeon or doctor doing the procedure and you will have a chance to ask him/her any last minute questions. You will also meet the operating room nurse as well as the anesthesiologist a specially trained doctor who will give your child (sleep medicine) during surgery. This doctor will talk to you about your child's health and answer any questions you may have about anesthesia. Then the team members will perform the safe surgery checklist at your child's bedside.

For more information on anesthesia go to Understanding Anesthesia - FAQ.

During Surgery

Going for Surgery - Operating Room

Once the safe surgery checklist is completed, your child will go with the nurse to the operating room. Children are welcome to bring a favorite toy, blanket or stuffed animal with them. Remind your child that you will be waiting at the bedside when he or she returns to the unit.

In the operating room, the nurses will help your child get settled onto the bed. Your child will then receive anesthesia either by breathing it in through a mask or through an intravenous (IV). The surgery is started, once your child is in a deep sleep. During surgery, the anesthesiologist monitors your child closely. When the surgery is done, the anesthesia medicine is stopped and your child starts to wake up.

Most children will receive an IV as part of their care. It is often placed in the hand or foot and is used to give fluids or medicine. Younger children usually receive the IV after they are asleep. As well, a breathing device is often used to help maintain proper breathing during surgery.

Waking Up - Recovery Room (PACU)

After the surgery is done, your child will go to the Recovery Room or Post Anesthetic Care Unit (PACU). Here the nurses will closely monitor your child as he or she wakes up. Your child may receive some medicine for pain and once awake may have a popsicle or something to drink.

Waiting - Day Surgery Waiting Room

A large waiting room, located close to the operating rooms, is available for parents to wait in. You are welcome to bring food or drinks into this area. We will give you a pager so we can contact you when your child is ready to leave the recovery room or when the surgeon is able to talk to you. We ask that you not leave the hospital during your child's surgery.

We understand that the wait time can be stressful. If the wait is longer than you expected, please speak to nurses on the Short Stay Surgical Unit. You will be able to check your child's progress on a large monitor in the waiting room.

After Surgery

Talking to the Surgeon

After your child's surgery, the surgeon usually comes and talks to you in the waiting room or on the unit. We encourage you to ask questions or express any concerns at this time. Some questions you may want to ask are:

  • What can I expect my child's recovery to be like over the next few days?
  • What type of problems should I be concerned about or watch out for?
  • What should I do if any of these problems occur?
  • When can my child go back to school or resume other activities such as sports, dance, or swimming?
  • Do I need to schedule a follow-up appointment?

Returning to the Unit

When your child is ready to return to the unit, we will page you. On the unit, the nurses will continue to monitor your child, give pain medicine as needed and encourage your child to rest. The nurses and doctors will let you know how long your child needs to stay. This will depend on the type of surgery and how your child is doing. If your child is staying overnight, one parent may sleep at the bedside. If you need to call family or friends, there are phones on the unit and throughout the hospital.

Reviewing Care at Home

Before you leave, your nurse will talk to you and give you written instructions on how to care for your child at home. This information includes problems to watch out for, when to contact your surgeon, medications, diet, activity and wound care. If your child needs special equipment or nursing care at home, we will help you arrange it. We ask that you take a few minutes to review the written instructions. Please ask questions if there is something you're not sure about. We want you to feel confident about caring for your child at home.

Going Home

It is best to have two adults for the drive home, so one person can attend to your child's needs. If you usually travel by bus, please ask a friend or family member to drive you home. If this is not possible, the staff can help you arrange a taxi.

Before you leave, please ensure you have:

  • your written instruction sheet
  • any prescription(s)
  • your child's Alberta Health card
  • all your belongings, especially headphones and DVDs
  • a container or a plastic re-sealable bag in case your child feels sick on the way home

Prescriptions can be filled at the Alberta Children's Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy, located on the main floor.