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Frequently Asked Questions | Overview

How can I prepare my child for surgery?

The Day Surgery unit offers a preoperative group program for children from ages 3 to 7 years old. The program includes a puppet show, a tour of the unit and time for children to play with hospital materials. Siblings are welcome, as well. Please call 617-355-7021 for questions about the puppet show and tour, or if you and your child require an individual tour.

Can my child have anything to eat or drink before surgery?

No. General anesthesia is safest when given on an empty stomach. Surgery is likely to be canceled or postponed if the dietary guidelines are not followed. Children sometimes don't understand why they cannot have breakfast or something to drink if they are thirsty. While we are sensitive to this problem, we cannot stress enough the importance of the dietary restrictions. Please do not give your child ice chips, hard candy, gum or lollipops. For more information, please consult our day surgery instructions.

Are there things that I should notify the staff or my surgeon about?

Yes. If your child develops a cough, fever, chest cold or has an asthma attack within three days of scheduled surgery, you should call the department and let us know. If your child has been exposed to measles, mumps or chicken pox in the 21 days before surgery, please notify us as soon as you become aware of the exposure. Your child's surgery may need to be rescheduled so that other children are not at risk of catching these diseases.

I am the child's grandparent/legal guardian. May I consent for his or her surgery?

Only parents or legal guardians with proof of guardianship may give consent. Grandparents who are not legal guardians may not. If you are a foster parent or not the legal guardian please bring the phone number of the social worker or parent so that we may obtain telephone consent. We cannot proceed with surgery on a child if consent has not been obtained.

Why must we arrive at the hospital 90 minutes before surgery?

Preparations for surgery must be thorough. It takes at least 90 minutes for registration, blood tests (when necessary) and examinations by the doctors and nurses who care for your child.

Where do I go when I arrive at the hospital?

Enter the building through the Lobby and go to the Information Desk. There you will be directed to go either to the Admitting Office for a blood test or directly up to the Day Surgery unit on Main 3.

How much time can I spend with my child?

You can be with your child at all times prior to surgery. Boston Children's Hospital has an active Parent Present Induction program. When appropriate for your child's condition, one parent may be permitted, by the anesthesiologist, to enter the Operating Room to stay with your child during the start of anesthesia. Once your child is asleep, you will be escorted to the Waiting Room where the surgeon will meet you after the operation is completed. If you are pregnant, please notify the nurse or anesthesiologist. As your child wakes, you will be given an opportunity to join him in the Recovery Room. Before you leave, the nurses will give you instructions on postoperative care and answer any questions.

How will I care for my child at home?

Most of the operations performed in Day Surgery require very little physical care other than occasional dressing changes (new bandages). You may take your child home when he is stable and you are comfortable with the care required. Most children stay one to two hours after surgery.

What if I have questions once we get home?

You will be given the telephone numbers of the surgeon and the anesthesiologist on call. You may call these numbers if you have any questions. The morning after surgery, a nurse will call you to find out how you and your child are doing.

Commonly Asked Questions: Parents in the OR

Why can't both parents accompany a child into the operating room for the start of anesthesia?

Although both parents provide support for their child, we have learned that it is easier for a child to focus on one parent at the start of anesthesia. During the induction process, we encourage the parent to talk to and comfort the child as he or she would at home. It can become confusing for the child to have more than one parent talking to him or her at the same time. In addition, we can safely focus our teaching and support on one parent.

If I am not the legal parent, may I still participate in the Parent Present Induction program?

The most appropriate person to accompany the child is the one who will be able to provide the necessary support to the child. This selection is individualized and does not have to be the legal parent.

What are the criteria for choosing a parent to accompany a child?

The parent should be healthy, have a calming influence on the child and must feel comfortable with his or her role in the operating room.

Do I have to accompany my child into the operating room?

No. There is no form of induction that is suitable for every child, and there are medications that can be given in the patient preparation area decrease the child's anxiety. Many children who are informed and prepared for surgery may not experience fear and anxiety.

Why can't I accompany my child if I am pregnant?

We are unable to protect pregnant women from anesthetic medications during an inhalation (mask) induction, and we prefer to avoid unnecessary exposure.

Will I have to wear special clothes?

You will be asked to put on a one piece coverall (a jumpsuit that fits over your street clothes), a hat and a mask. Because the attire is strange, it can be frightening for a child. We encourage parents to put the jumpsuit on in front of the child and then reassure the child that you will only be dressed like this for a short period of time.

If my child cries, does that mean the start of anesthesia was bad?

Children cry for many reasons: when they are sleepy, hungry, in pain or upset, for example. It also depends upon the child's stage of development. Some children, especially preschoolers, will cry when the mask is first introduced or when they notice a change in the environment. The operating room staff members consider this normal and sometimes even expect it.

What if my child becomes uncooperative upon arrival in the operating room?

A backup plan is always made during the preoperative evaluation. Your child's anesthesiologist will discuss this plan with you before starting a Parent Present Induction.

When do I leave the operating room?

The anesthesiologist determines when the parent should leave the operating room. The anesthesia induction process is quick, and parents are escorted from the operating room to the Family Waiting Room by a member of the operating room staff at that time.

For more information, please call the Pre-Op Clinic at 617-355-3765.