If your child needs emergency surgery, there is limited time to prepare yourself and your child. The news can be a total surprise, and the urgent nature of the procedure can be very frightening. The most important thing parents can do is to stay calm, reassure their child, and ask as many questions as necessary to understand the situation.
For elective or required surgeries, it's valuable to prepare yourself before meeting with your child's surgeon. There are several things you should bring with you to help the surgeon have a complete picture of the problem or condition, including the following:
Copies of any X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans already done
Results of lab tests
Complete medical history record (This can be sent by your child's healthcare provider in advance.)
List of all prescription and over-the-counter medicines your child is taking (or has recently taken), or the medicines themselves
List of all allergies your child has (especially latex allergy)
List of any questions you have for the surgeon
List of past providers who cared for your child
The surgeon will review any tests already done, your child's medical history, and the medicines your child is currently taking. A complete physical exam will then be done to assess your child's current health status. If more tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis, the surgeon will discuss them with you at this time. Your child's healthcare provider will expect you to ask questions, and it will be very helpful if you write them down in advance, so you can ask everything you want to know. The following is a list of common questions asked when preparing a child for surgery:
Is there any alternative to having surgery?
What are the expected results?
What are the possible risks and complications?
How long will the surgery take?
What type of anesthesia is needed for this surgery?
How long will my child have to stay in the hospital? Will I be allowed to be with my child throughout the stay?
Will my child have any pain and what kind of medicine will they receive for it?
Will my child need a blood transfusion?
What will the incision look like and will I need to change dressings? Will there be scarring? Will there be stitches to remove?
Will my child need antibiotics or other medicines after surgery?
What care will be needed after the surgery?
When can my child resume normal activities?
After your questions have been answered, your child's surgery can be scheduled. This will take into account the urgency of the surgery, your child's condition, and the surgeon's and hospital's availability. The surgeon's office and the hospital admitting office will assist in getting preapproval from your insurance company before the day of surgery.
If you have more questions before your child's scheduled surgery, call your child's surgeon. Your confidence in knowing what will happen before, during, and after surgery will help you in preparing your child.