Surgery Guide

Laughing boy in hospital bed

When your child needs surgery, nothing will stop you from worrying. But when you choose Nationwide Children's Hospital, you have less to worry about. From anesthesiologists to surgeons to nurses and support staff, our team knows kids. We know how to keep them safe, help them heal and let them be kids. And we know how to help and support your family while your child is in our care.

Every child has unique physical and emotional needs, and pediatric surgery is a special kind of responsibility. It's more than a profession. It's a calling. Our team answers that call armed with specialized experience, child-friendly bedside manner and the latest proven technology. We'll treat your child and family with the dignity and compassion you need and deserve, in a safe and comforting environment.

To find out more, call (614) 722-2929 and ask for a surgery brochure. The brochure explains in simple, easy-reading language what will happen before, during and after surgery. It even includes a second brochure in the back pocket just for your child.

You and your child will both feel more comfortable if you know where the surgery will happen.

Your family is invited to schedule a Welcome Walk that includes:

  • A tour of surgical areas – Main Operating Room (Inpatient), Main Campus Surgery Center or Westerville Surgery Center
  • A time to explore medical equipment
  • A visit to the play area
  • A time for questions and answers

To request a surgery tour, you may call or email*:

*Please allow ample time for scheduling.

A nurse will call you one to seven days before your child's surgery. You may get more than one call.

During the call, the nurse will get a health history and discuss the following information:

  • Current health status – recent or current sickness, like a cough, cold, fever or rash.
  • Arrival time – this is usually 2 hours before the surgery or procedure, depending on the location
  • Questions about parking and directions
  • How long you should plan on staying at the hospital or procedure or surgery center
  • Eating or drinking restrictions
    • If you do not follow the eating and drinking instructions, the procedure or surgery may need to be canceled and rescheduled for another day.

If you haven't received a call by 4 p.m. the day before the surgery, or if you have questions, call:

You're probably nervous about your child being under anesthesia during surgery. At Nationwide Children's Hospital, we're committed to your child's safety, as well as your peace of mind.

Here are some questions you may have, and some answers to help put you at ease.

What is anesthesia?

Anesthesia (anesthetics) is medicine that prevents the feeling of pain during a procedure or surgery and prevents you from remembering.

A few types of anesthesia are:

  • General anesthesia – keeps a person completely “asleep” (unconscious) during a procedure or surgery
  • Local anesthesia – numbs only the procedure or surgical site
  • Regional anesthesia – numbs a larger area of the body, including the procedure or surgical site(s).
  • Sometimes a combination of these is used.

If you have questions about anesthesia alternatives, you may ask the anesthesiologist about options. Nationwide Children’s Hospital staff specializes in giving anesthesia to infants, children and adults. They will choose the safest form of anesthesia to use.

Who gives anesthesia?

All general anesthetics are given by members of the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine.

The anesthesia staff includes doctors specializing in anesthesia (anesthesiologists) and certified registered nurse anesthetists under the direct supervision of the anesthesiologists.

How is general anesthesia given?

  • In most cases, younger children inhale a medicated air through a mask that covers the nose and mouth. Your child may choose a scent for the mask. After 1 to 2 minutes, your child will be asleep (anesthetized). After your child is anesthetized, an intravenous (IV) catheter will be placed so fluids and medicines may be given.
  • Older children, adults, and some children with medical problems may need IV medicines to “go to sleep” instead of the air. You may or may not get the chance to choose what you would like depending on the situation. The anesthesiologist will make the final decision based on what is safest and discuss it with you.
  • A member of the anesthesia team will stay with the patient during the entire procedure or surgery to watch vitals signs.

Where does my child wake up?

The patient will wake up and recover in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).

The PACU nurses are specially trained in this type of care. A pediatric anesthesiologist is always close by if there are any problems. Recovery times are different based on the procedure or surgery. The goal is to have the patient awake and back with family as soon as safely possible.

If you or your family have any questions or concerns during or after the procedure or surgery, please ask staff for an update.

Will my child be sick afterward? Are there any problems I should expect?

Some people will be nauseated or may throw up (vomit). Children having eye surgery or tonsillectomies are more likely to have this problem. If this happens, medicine can be given for the nausea and vomiting.

If a breathing tube was put into the mouth and throat, the patient may have a sore throat or hoarseness for a few days. There may be a small puncture mark or bruise where the IV was removed. At times, there may be more than one puncture mark because it may take more than one try to get the IV in place.

Hospitals can be less scary if you know what is going to happen while you are there. Talking to your child about his or her surgery ahead of time can help with this.

Tell your child as much as they can understand and encourage questions. Let your child make choices, when possible. Know that you have a very important role in this process. Stay calm and confident. Children can sense your feelings.

Want to learn more about how to talk to your child about a surgery or procedure? Page 5 of our Surgeries & Procedures Guide offers advice for infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, school-aged children and teens.

Download the Surgeries & Procedures Guide

Video Resources

Wondering what to expect when your child has a surgery at Nationwide Children's Hospital? These videos from our Child Life Specialists explain the process for arriving and preparing for surgery.

What to Expect on the Day of Your Child's Surgery