Helping Parents Prepare for Your Child's Surgery

What happens after surgery?

Each child and each surgery are different. As a result, the length of time spent in PACU varies. The stay can last from a few minutes to several hours. Don't be alarmed if the time in PACU is longer than you anticipated. If your child has been in PACU for longer than one hour, a staff member will update you on your child's condition.

You will be notified when the medical team determines your child is ready to leave the recovery room. You will be able to meet your child, and talk to your child's nurse at that time. Your child may be on a bed or may be carried out by the recovery room nurse. Your child may have an IV after surgery, which will be well secured with tape. You and your child will be brought to their post-operative room.

The post-operative nurse will check your child's temperature, pulse, breathing, and blood pressure. The nurse will also assess pain using the pain scale. Once awake enough and feeling ready to drink, your child may start with some ice chips, Popsicles, or clear liquids such as apple juice.

At this point children may be sleepy, irritable, or dizzy, have an upset stomach, sore throat, headache, or muscle aches. Younger children are often upset and difficult to soothe. This is a common side effect of the anesthesia. It helps to provide a quiet atmosphere for the child and encourage them to sleep or rest. You may choose to rock your child, play calming music or soothe them by your gentle touch. Most post-operative areas have VCRs or DVD players, and movies are available. Check ahead so you know which kind of player is available and bring some of your child's favorites.

When your child is ready to go home you will receive discharge instructions from your doctor about eating and drinking, activity, and medicines to help with healing after surgery, as well as signs of potential problems. Patient/Parent Education materials are available to help you learn more.

If your child is spending one night or several nights you may want to bring items from the checklists. One parent can sleep in or near the child's room overnight. Other accommodations can be made nearby if another parent wants to stay overnight. Please discuss this with a member of your health care team as soon as possible.

All of the patient care units have play or activity areas where patients may spend time with their family. Toys and activities may be taken to your child's room. Activities are often organized and offered to your child by volunteers and child life staff. The sibling play area also is available for brothers and sisters.