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Post anesthesia care unit (recovery room)

After surgery is completed and your child starts to awaken, one parent may be asked to come to the post anesthesia care unit (recovery room) to care for your child. Our goal is to reunite you with your child as soon as possible.

What is the post anesthesia care unit or PACU?

  • The post anesthesia care unit (also called the recovery room) is the place where patients recover from anesthesia.
  • While waking up from anesthesia, children may have special medical needs. It is not the same as waking up from regular sleep.

What happens in the PACU?

  • Your child is never left alone and is attended at all times.  A nurse closely watches the vital signs (pulse, blood pressure, temperature and oxygen level in the blood). Monitors are used to help the nurse watch your child.
  • Your child will also be closely monitored for pain and medications will be given as needed.  
  • On occasion, children may appear awake after their procedure, but are not fully aware of their surroundings.  Children may cry, thrash, and reach for a parent and nothing seems to calm them. This is more common for children under 6 years of age. If this happens to your child, remember that it usually goes away by itself. It just takes time for the effects of anesthesia to wear off.

Before you enter the PACU, it is important that you:

  • Feel comfortable in a medical setting. Please do not feel that you have to go into the PACU if you are not comfortable with it.
  • Can provide a calm, supportive presence for your child.
  • Follow direction from the nurse.

Guidelines for parents in PACU:

  • If your child is sleeping, do not wake him or her up. 
  • If your child is awake, speak softly and provide words of comfort as you normally would.
  • Please refrain from using cellular phones, cameras or laptop computers.


This information is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please ask your nurse or doctor.

Reviewed by Peri-op 10/2017

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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