Good Planning Paves Way for Kid's Operation

Before your child undergoes surgery, follow these helpful tips

SATURDAY, Aug. 8, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- To ease the anxiety of a child undergoing surgery, it helps if parents and children are well-prepared, advises the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

"Undergoing surgery can be a source of stress for a person of any age, but when the patient is a child, a whole new layer of sensitivity is added," ASA President Dr. Roger A. Moore said in a news release from the society. "The anesthesiologist, surgeon and entire care team do their best to make a child's visit to the hospital as pleasant as possible, but parents also have a key role to play in the process. To this end, we urge parents to begin preparing their child as soon as a decision is made to perform surgery."

The ASA offers these tips:

  • Be informed. Learn what you and your child should expect during and after surgery. Ask the doctor to walk you through the operation, then seek details about when and where you can be present, the anesthesia, recovery time, pain, scars and other pertinent details.
  • Inform your child in an age-appropriate manner. Older children may be able to handle more detailed information than younger ones. Your doctor should be able to offer advice on relaying surgery specifics.
  • Be positive. In general, always offer reassurance. Children like knowing that the medical staff contains experts looking out for their well-being. Emphasize that short-term discomfort will be outweighed by longer-term health and happiness.
  • Set realistic expectations. Remind your child that no one immediately bounces back from surgery, and it may be a gradual healing process with some discomfort along the way.
  • Seek support. Have family and friends provide encouragement in person or through calls, cards or e-mails.
  • Distract your child. Plan activities for the day before or of surgery to keep your child's mind free of worry. A new toy can help occupy the time.
  • Work with your medical team. Being open and honest will help them make the right decisions for your child. Be aware of cues they offer to help keep your child calm.
  • Care for yourself. Stay calm because children often pick up on their parent's attitude and demeanor. Ask for or accept help from others with meals and child care to keep your daily life moving smoothly forward.
  • Stay alert even after surgery. Follow your doctor's post-op instructions closely. Be on the lookout for post-surgical complications, even well after the operation.

More information

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about preventing medical errors with children.

Kevin McKeever

Kevin McKeever

Updated on August 10, 2009

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