Preparing for Elective Surgery
What is elective surgery?
Elective surgery is surgery that can be scheduled and therefore planned and prepared for. Most elective surgery is performed on a same day surgery basis so your child can come into the hospital, undergo the operation and return home all in the same day. A typical example of same day surgery would be the surgical repair of a hernia. In other cases, such as a more complex urological surgery or repair of pectus excavatum, there is a short hospital stay after surgery.
How can you (the parent) prepare for elective surgery?
Both you and your child need to be equally prepared for surgery. Preparing your child for surgery can only be successful if you are well informed and psychologically ready. You must prepare first!
Make sure you have understood the procedure to your satisfaction, including the risks and benefits of the surgery. You will be answering your child's questions. We are always ready to answer any last minute doubts.
You may have some fears related to the anesthesia. Fortunately the horror stories still being told by older family members are now a thing of the past in pediatric hospitals. Pediatric anesthesia is administered by pediatric anesthesiologists who have the specific expertise and knowledge to take appropriate measures if complications arise both in the operating room and the recovery room. With thirteen anesthesiologists on staff, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, formerly Miami Children's Hospital, performs an average of 11,000 pediatric procedures a year. As a result children typically recover fast after elective surgery and with few side effects from their anesthesia.
How to prepare your child for surgery?
Communication! The worst thing is to surprise children, so prepare your child for surgery by explaining the problem in simple terms to help them understand. Try not to use threatening language like "cut" or needle" rather explain that the doctor will fix the problem.
At any age, children feel that the full extent of the problem is being hidden from them, so try to explain as much of their disease as they will understand; this is the only way to earn and keep their trust.
Does each age group respond in the same manner?
While each child is different there are some overall similarities in their responses to stress that are linked to age.
For infants the main issue is ensuring that the parents have had the time to communicate fully and arrive with a clear understanding of each other's fears and expectations.
Toddlers are frightened of separation and also tend to think that disease and surgery are punishments. They need to be reassured that they are not being punished.
To eliminate the experience of separation, children are given a special medicine prior to being moved to the operating room that will make them forget their fear and the temporary separation from their parents. Needles are another source of fear and we routinely place any IV in the operating room once the child is already under sedation.
At school age, children may fear anesthesia, pain and even death. They will need reassurance and preparation (like the preoperative visit to the operating room where their questions can be answered).
For adolescents, the key to preparing for surgery is empowerment - they need to participate in the decision making process, but they will also need as adult support and reassurance. They may not feel it is acceptable to express fear or pain and need to be encouraged to voice their questions.
Are there any preparatory courses that parents and children can attend?
We have a pre-surgical orientation that is held regularly on Saturday mornings at 10.30 am and if you cannot make the Saturday course please call (305) 624 4543 extension 4875 to organize a special course on Tuesday nights.
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