Your Child's Surgery

Alberta Children's Hospital

Preparing for Surgery | Day Before Surgery | Day of Surgery | At Home | Family Resources

No matter how simple or complex your child’s surgery, we understand that no procedure is small when it involves your child. Coming to the Alberta Children’s Hospital for surgery can be stressful for the entire family, whether it is planned or unexpected.

We find families who know what to expect are often less anxious and better prepared for their hospital experience. The following information and resources will help your family prepare in the weeks leading up to the surgery.

Your Child's Surgery

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Take a Tour with Us

Join us on a tour of what you and your child can expect before, during and after surgery. Watch the video below to see what you and your child can expect on their day of surgery. There is also a photo tour available for you and your child to look at. Follow the link to view Day Surgery Photo Tour.

Preparing for Surgery

Arrange Childcare for Siblings | Schedule Time off Work | Talk with Your Child's Teacher(s) | Talk to Your Child / Teen | Preparing Your Family | Help Siblings Cope | Arrange for a Place to Stay | Pre-Admission Clinic | Pre-Operative Anesthesia Clinics (POAC) | Post-surgery Comfort After Discharge

While you wait for your child’s surgery date, there are some important things to do to prepare and information you will need to know.

Arrange Childcare for Siblings

Families are welcome to visit on the day of surgery, however we suggest having siblings and other children in your care stay with family and friends. If this is not possible, Emily’s Backyard on the main level of the hospital can provide childcare for a limited time.

Schedule Time off Work

At least one parent needs to be with your child on the day of surgery. Ask the surgeon how long your child will be in the hospital and how long he or she needs to stay home to recover. This will help you plan for any days off work.

Talk with Your Child's Teacher(s)

Let your child's teacher(s) know how long your child will be away from school to help plan for any missed schoolwork.

Talk to Your Child / Teen

Talking to your child or teenager about their surgery is important. They will feel less anxious if they know what to expect and will feel more confident about coming to the hospital. Using age-appropriate activities to prepare your child will help them better understand what is happening. Visit to view How Do I Prepare My Child?

If you need more help with how to get your child or teenager ready for their surgery contact an Alberta Children’s Hospital Child Life Specialist at

If your teen is coming to the Alberta Children's Hospital for surgery, have them review Just for Teens - Tips for Surgery.

Preparing Your Family

When a child goes to the hospital, the whole family can be affected.To help prepare for an upcoming surgery, you can:

Helping Siblings Cope

Brothers and sisters (siblings) often have questions and may respond with a number of emotions to a child being in the hospital. It is important to take time to explain to siblings what is going to happen, what they can do to help and how their routines may be affected. Visit to view Helping Your Other Children Cope.

Arrange for a Place to Stay if you Live Out of Town

If you are from out of town and need a place to stay, visit the Family & Community Resource Centre website for a list of family accommodations near the Alberta Children’s Hospital

Pre-Admission Clinic

Expect a call from the Pre-Admission Clinic (PAC) approximately 7-14 days prior to your child’s surgery date. For more information about the clinic, view Pre-Admission Clinic

Pre-Operative Anesthesia Clinic (POAC)

Sometimes your child may need to be seen by an anesthesiologist in the anesthesia clinic before they have surgery. If your child’s surgeon or Pre-Admission Clinic nurse schedules this appointment, it may be a few weeks or days before the surgery. For more information about the clinic, view Pre-Operative Anesthesia Clinic.

Post-surgery Comfort After Discharge

Be prepared, have over the counter pain medicine like Tylenol®, Tempra®, Advil® or Motrin® ready at home. If you would like generic brands for these medications ask a pharmacist for assistance. If you have questions about pain medications talk to your pharmacist. Stock up on fluids such as soups, popsicles, juices and solid foods that are easy to digest.

Additional Resources

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Day Before Surgery

Arrival Instructions | Check for Illness | If Your Child is on Medication | Pack Your Child's Things | Plan Your Arrival | Have Your Child Take a Bath or Shower

Arrival Instructions

Someone from the Short Stay Surgical Unit will call you after 1 p.m. the day prior to your child’s surgery, make sure you have a pen and paper to write down these instruction. They will tell you:

  • What time you and your child should arrive at the hospital
  • Where to go the morning of surgery
  • What time your child must stop eating and drinking (it is very important that you follow these instructions carefully)

Check for Illness

If your child has a fever, cough, cold, or flu symptoms call the Short Stay Surgical Unit to speak to a nurse.

You may be asked to still come in on the day of surgery so the doctor that gives your child the anesthesia can assess your child and decide if the surgery should be postponed until your child is feeling better.

If Your Child is on Medication

Make a list of all the medicine your child takes. This includes over the-counter medicines like vitamins and herbal supplements. If you need help with the list, you can ask your pharmacy for a printout or use Medication Lists and Tools to keep track of your child’s medicine.

Pack Your Child's Things

Pack your child’s things in a small suitcase or backpack. Label all of your child’s belongings.

Bring only what your child may need for the first 24 hours and only what you can carry.

For details on what to pack for your child’s stay refer to the complete packing list

Plan Arrival at the Alberta Children's Hospital

Refer to the Alberta Children’s Hospital website for information on how to find us and where to park. Viewing the parking map will help you be better prepared. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes to find parking to ensure you arrive on time.

Have Your Child Take a Bath or Shower

Have your child take a bath or shower and shampoo their hair the evening before or the morning of surgery. Braid long hair or tie back in a ponytail. If you were asked to use special soap use it. Otherwise, use your child’s regular soap and shampoo.

Have Your Child Remove

  • all nail polish from fingers of both hands
  • all make-up
  • all jewelry including all piercings from ears, face, and body

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Day of Surgery

If your child has a fever, or flu-like symptoms call the Short Stay Surgical Unit.

Before Surgery: Preparing to Leave Home | Arriving at the Hospital | Getting Ready for Surgery | Meeting the Team

During Surgery: Going for Surgery OR | Waiting   After Surgery: Waking Up | Returning to the Unit | Discharge Home | Prescriptions

Before Surgery

Preparing to Leave Home

  • Ensure your child does not eat any solid food, drink milk or breast milk, or have any gum or candy as directed.
  • Encourage your child to drink clear fluids as directed
  • Ensure your child does not wear contact lenses to the hospital, please wear only glasses
  • It is important that your child stays warm before surgery. Bring warm thermal socks, a hoodie or a bathrobe that your child can wear while at the hospital
  • To ensure that you and your child have everything that you need, review the complete packing list.

Arriving at the Hospital

When you arrive at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, stop at the Admitting Desk near the main entrance to register your child. Take the elevators to the the MacNeill Family 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 ask you a few questions about your child’s health and will listen to your child’s heart and lungs.

For girls 12 years of age or older, your child will be asked to provide a routine urine sample for pregnancy testing. If you child is younger than 12 and has started their period, they will also be asked to provide a urine sample for pregnancy testing. For more information on this please review our Routine Pregnancy Testing Before Treatment patient care handout. We recommend that your talk to your child about this before the day of surgery.

Once Your child is ready for surgery, he or she can play with toys, read, or watch a movie until the OR is ready for your child. We will do our best to keep you informed of any delays to the schedule.

We will give you a pager so we can contact you if we need you.

Meeting the Surgery Team

When the OR is ready for your child the porter will take you and your child to the operating room holding area just outside of the operating room where you will meet your child’s OR team or the OR team may also meet you and your child on the unit and take them directly to the operating room. Take this opportunity to ask any questions that you may have.

Your child is welcome to bring a favorite toy, blanket or stuffed animal with them.

You will meet:

  • Your child’s surgeon or doctor doing the procedure
  • The anesthesiologist who will be giving your child sleep medicine during the surgery
  • Operating Room nurse

For more information visit to view anesthesia.

During Surgery

Going for Surgery - OR

  • Once the team is ready, your child will go to the operating room. Children are welcome to bring a favorite toy, blanket or stuffed animal with them.
  • Your child will go with a porter to the OR holding area where they will meet their surgery team (nurse, anesthesiologist, and surgeon) or they will be picked up by the surgery team on 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.

Waiting – Day Surgery Waiting Room

We ask that you do not leave the hospital during your child’s surgery. There is a large waiting room, located close to the operating room for parents to wait in. We understand that the wait time can be stressful.

The length of time that a child is in the OR is sometimes difficult to estimate, but if the wait is longer than expected, speak to the 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

Waking Up – Recovery Room (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. Your child will stay on this unit until it is safe for them to be moved to a nursing unit. Your child’s nurse will tell you when your child is ready to be moved. For more information about the unit, view Post Anesthetic Care Unit.

Returning to the Unit

If your child is expected to go home the same day as their surgery, they will be taken back to the McNeill Family Short Stay Surgical Unit. The nurses and doctors will let you know how long your child needs to stay. If your child will be staying one or more nights then thy will be transferred to either the McNeill Family Short Stay Surgical Unit or onto a different inpatient unit.

Discharge Home

  • Your child’s healthcare team will tell you how to care for your child after surgery before you leave the hospital. We encourage you to ask questions about your child’s care during their hospital stay.
  • Before you leave, 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
  • 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.


Any prescriptions can be filled at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy, located on the main floor.

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Caring for Your Child at Home

For general information on how to take care for your child after you leave the hospital, refer to the written instructions you received from the Short Stay Surgical Unit.

If you have any questions about your child's care after you get home, call your surgeon's office or clinic.

Health Link

You can also speak to a registered nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week about any concern you may have. To access this free service, dial 811.

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Family Resources

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