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*:

  • Main Campus Surgery Center (Outpatient): (614) 722-2920
  • Main Operating Room (Inpatient & Outpatient): (614) 722-9107
  • Westerville Surgery Center (Outpatient): (614) 355-6100, option 3

*Please allow ample time for scheduling.

A nurse will call you at least four days before your child's surgery to check on your child's health status and health history.

The day before the surgery, a nurse will call again to let you know:

  • When to arrive
  • How long you should plan to stay
  • Eating and drinking restrictions for the patient

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

  • Children's Outpatient Surgery (614) 722-5200 
  • Children's Surgery Center (614) 722-2920

Anesthesia gives a person freedom from pain during surgery. For some procedures, a numbing medicine just numbs part of the body. That's called a local anesthetic. But most operations require deep sleep, or general anesthesia.

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.

Who gives anesthesia?

At Nationwide Children's Hospital, our anesthesiologists (doctors specializing in anesthesia) and certified registered nurse anesthetists specialize in giving anesthesia to children. In fact, we train resident physicians and nurses who work under direct supervision of our highly experienced staff. Your child's vital signs are carefully monitored while he or she is asleep, using a blood pressure cuff, heart monitor, thermometer, pulse oximeter, and oxygen and carbon dioxide monitors. An anesthesiologist will talk to you before the surgery and answer any questions you have.

If you'd like to speak to an anesthesiologist before the day of surgery, call the Children's Surgery Center at (614) 722-2920 or Children's Pre-Admission Testing at (614) 722-3850.

How is general anesthesia given?

In most cases, your child will breathe medicine mixed with air through a mask placed near his or her nose and mouth. This is called “induction.” Your child can bring a favorite toy or blanket into the induction room for comfort, and even choose a scent for the mask. After three or four minutes, your child will be asleep. Older children or teenagers may prefer to have the anesthesia injected in a hand or arm. When we can, we try to do what the child prefers. The anesthesiologist will make the decision based on your child's safety and preference.

After your child is asleep, we'll probably insert an intravenous (IV) line in an arm or hand. In some cases, a breathing tube will be inserted in your child's throat after he or she is asleep. This allows us to keep giving medicine to make sure your child does not wake up until after surgery.

Where does my child wake up?

Your child will wake from surgery in the recovery room in the care of specially trained nurses. The anesthesiologist will continue to monitor your child's condition. If your child is having any pain after surgery, the anesthesiologist will treat it with pain medicine as appropriate. The medicine might be given in the muscle (as a shot), in a vein (through the IV), or as a nerve block with a long-acting local anesthetic. As soon as your child is awake, he or she will be brought back to you. The nurses will answer your questions and give you step-by-step verbal and written instructions as ordered by your child's surgeon.

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

A few children are nauseated or throw up after surgery. We'll give your child anti-nausea medicine to help if needed. Your child might have a sore throat if a breathing tube was used. There may be a puncture mark or bruise where the IV needle was removed.

When preparing your child for surgery, be calm, and answer questions as honestly and clearly as possible.

Children 3 and Under

At this age, your child probably cannot understand why he or she needs surgery or is going to the hospital. Your child is mostly concerned about being away from home and family. Toddlers may have trouble coping with changes in routine, such as eating, sleeping and toileting.

Arrange for a parent or trusted adult to stay with your child. Bring a favorite item from home, such as a stuffed animal, blanket or pillow.

Children 3-6 Years 

Your child may view the hospital as punishment and have feelings of loss of control and fear of the unknown. Reassure your child that she or he has not done anything wrong.

Make sure you give your child simple, honest answers, and only tell them what they need or want to know.

Children 7-12 Years

At this age, your child may fear pain and may believe he or she is being punished. She or he may feel a loss of control and a lack of independence.

Provide your child with as much information as you can. Ask staff, whenever possible, to let your child know what is going to happen at each step. Let your child make choices when possible.

Adolescents 12 and Up

Your preteen or teen is worried about having a loss of control and being separated from peers. They may also be self-conscious.

Respect your child’s privacy whenever possible. Encourage your child to ask questions and stay involved in his or her medical care. Help him or her stay in touch with friends.

If you have any difficulty after you arrive home, call your surgeon, Children's Surgery Center or Children's Outpatient Surgery.

Behavioral Changes after Surgery

Children handle the hospital experience in a variety of ways. Your child may:

  • Behave as if he or she were much younger
  • Be more clingy than usual
  • Sleep and eat more or less than usual and at different times

Remember, these changes are common and temporary.

If you have concerns, talk to your child's doctor.