Surgery Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Parents

How do I explain what is surgery to my child?

"When something inside your body needs to be fixed or checked."

How do I talk to my child about pain?

"Sometimes kids feel a little sore after something in their body is fixed. They have medicine that will help you if you feel sore."

You and your child's health care team will work together to help your child be as comfortable as possible. After surgery, it is common to have some pain and discomfort, but our goal is to make sure that the pain is minimal and that your child is comfortable enough to rest and heal.

How can I help prepare my child for surgery?

  • Keep calm. When parents are calm, kids are calmer too!
  • Be honest. Children do best when they are told the truth and are prepared. Offer your child age-appropriate information. For young children, keep things simple, but answer their questions and concerns truthfully.
  • Ask questions. By asking questions and learning all that you need to know, you are better prepared to answer your child's questions too.
  • Take care of yourself. You know your child best and are his or her biggest support. The best thing you can do for your child is to take care of you so that you are fully present to help your child when he or she needs you most.

Will I be able to stay with my child?

Some children benefit from having a trusted family member by their side as they go to sleep for surgery. You and your child's anesthesiologist will work together to create the safest and best plan for your child. If your child is staying overnight after surgery, each inpatient room has a sleeping area for a parent or primary caregiver.

Can I bring items from home such as toys, comfort items, etc., for my child?

Absolutely! It is actually very helpful for you to bring items your child is familiar with and finds comforting for their surgery. This will help ease any stress and decrease any anxiety your child may be feeling. Good items to bring are special blankets, stuffed animals, favorite toys, DVDs, or music.

Should I bring food for my child?

For your child's safety, your child should not have anything to eat the morning of surgery. Your child may have clear liquids such as, water or apple juice, until two hours before his or her surgery.

Some light snacks will be provided to your child after surgery, as long as their surgeon states that this is okay.

Food and drinks that we provide include: juice, water, goldfish crackers, saltine crackers, graham crackers, and popsicles. If your child has a specialized diet or particular favorite foods, please consider bringing them with you for after surgery.

If your child is still nursing or bottle-fed, please bring your child's formula or breast milk as well as their bottle or sippy cup. If you are breastfeeding you may wish to bring a breast pump with you. Private space can be provided if you need to pump while your child is in surgery.

What time do I need to arrive at the hospital for my child's surgery?

On the last business day before your child's surgery, a nurse will call you to tell you what time you and your child should arrive for surgery. During this call, the nurse will also give you directions on where to park, discuss eating and drinking restrictions, and provide any additional instructions you may need for your child's particular surgery. This is also a good opportunity for you to get any last minute questions answered.

How will I know where my child's surgery will be done?

Your child's surgeon will tell you if he or she feels your child is a good candidate to have the surgery done at the Outpatient Surgery Center (OSC) at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center.

Can I be with my child until he or she is asleep?

Unless otherwise determined by the anesthesiologist, one parent, guardian, or caregiver over the age of 18 may be present with a child over the age of 12 months as he or she falls asleep. Although this option is offered, parents are not required to be present as their child falls asleep.

Can I be with my child during the entire procedure?

Parents are not permitted to remain present during a procedure while a child is anesthetized. The anesthesia team and procedure providers must focus solely on your child to provide the best care possible. While parental support during the pre- and post-procedural time is extremely important, it is not a benefit to your child while he or she is asleep. It is always a concern that a parent may begin to feel faint and require medical attention, which would detract from the care of your child.

My child takes medicines. Can I give them as directed?

In general, medicines can be taken as scheduled with a sip of water. Staff will call each family one business day prior to the child's scheduled appointment to discuss medicines, and how and when to give them.

What happens if my child has a cold or fever?

If your child has cold symptoms, you should contact the Perioperative Pediatric Program. Mild cold symptoms in an otherwise healthy child may not necessarily indicate a need to reschedule the appointment. Symptoms that are concerning include, but are not limited to:

  • A productive cough (coughing something up)
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Having a decrease in normal activity tolerance

Although the assessment of your pediatrician provides helpful information, the final determination is made by the anesthesiologist whether it is safe to proceed with the scheduled appointment.

What do I need to know about anesthesia?

Anesthesia is medicine that helps your child sleep during surgery so that he or she cannot see, hear, or feel the surgery. For more information about anesthesia, read the Anesthesia and Sedation FAQs.

How can I learn more?

  • Watch our Operation Sneak-a-Peek video or schedule a tour to learn more about the hospital before your child's surgery.
  • Contact the Child Life Program to learn what assistance is available to you and your child while in the hospital.