When a child needs surgery

Photo of a kiwi

A child who needs surgery will likely turn to a parent for answers. Here are some suggestions you can follow.

  • Try to stay calm. Your child will react to your level of comfort or anxiety about the surgery. Talking with your doctor or surgeon about your concerns will help you feel more at ease.
  • If your child is old enough, discuss the surgery. Your child will then have the opportunity to discuss what to expect on the day of surgery. This helps reduce separation anxiety, along with anxiety about the procedure itself.
  • Answer questions honestly. Keep your explanations simple and appropriate for both your child's age and personality.
  • Be sure to carefully follow instructions about eating and drinking to prepare for surgery. This will be specific for your child, the time of day, and type of surgery planned. If your child has a full stomach, surgery may be cancelled or postponed to avoid the risk of vomiting.
  • If your child has to stay in the hospital, let them know you'll be outside the operating room during the procedure, and waiting in the recovery room with them when they awaken.
  • If your child will be under general anesthesia, let them know they will fall asleep before the surgery starts, and will be asleep during the entire procedure. Let them know they will be given medication to ease any pain or discomfort after they wake up.
  • If your child will have local anesthesia, let them know that the part of their body that will be operated on will be numb, and that they will not be able to feel what’s happening.
  • Be aware of the side effects of anesthesia. Nausea and vomiting are common after surgery, and usually go away after the first day. Some children have a sore throat or hoarse voice, which can take 3 or 4 days to clear.

Reviewed by: Margaret Mentakis, MD, April 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2016 Kaiser Permanente

Surgery and your safety

Learn about the steps you and your surgery team will take to ensure your safety.

After your surgery

You’ll find patient instructions to help you have a safer and more comfortable recovery.

Find online communities and support groups to help you cope with challenges.

When a child needs surgery

Children needing surgery want comfort and answers. Learn how to get your child prepared for surgery.