Hospitals are filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds, people and experiences. You can help make this safe, positive, and as non-stressful as possible for your child in several ways.
- Be honest about what the procedure involves. Misleading your child to reassure him or her is generally unhelpful. Have a discussion about what your child can expect, answer questions they may have, and explain how the procedure will help them.
- Your child will take emotional cues from you in stressful situations, so it is important for you to remain calm and supportive. If you think the procedure day will be too stressful for you, bring a support person to help.
- Fasting times are not flexible, in order to make the anaesthetic and procedure as safe as possible for your child. Nothing to eat or drink literally means nothing to eat or drink ! You can find more information about this here. If you have not followed these instructions, your child’s procedure may be delayed or cancelled. If you are unsure about fasting times or any other aspects of getting ready for your child’s procedure, please contact the Pre-admission Clinic ( 02 9463 1413, during business hours)
What is premedication?
This is any kind of medication given prior to the procedure to reduce anxiety or pain. If your anaesthetist recommends a premedication, the most common form is paracetamol syrup.
Sometimes a local anaesthetic cream will be applied to the back of your child’s hands or arms. This works to numb the underlying skin and reduce the pain associated with needles. In some children a temporary mild redness or itching of the skin can occur where the cream was applied.
If your child has had a particularly upsetting experience in hospital or with a previous procedure, your anaesthetist may recommend another sedative in syrup form, to help reduce your child’s anxiety.
Can I come into the operating theatre with my child?
This depends on the age of the child and the particular situation. In general, for elective surgery in children older than 6 months, one parent is usually able to accompany their child into theatre to help them with the start of their anaesthetic.
Children take emotional cues from their parents, so if you are feeling particularly anxious or distressed, it may be better for another family member to accompany your child.
You can be with your child until he or she is asleep, at which point a staff member will accompany you out to theatre reception and explain how you will be contacted at the end of your child’s procedure.
If your child is going to sleep using anaesthetic gas with a face mask, they may become upset and teary at some point before they are asleep. This is very normal. As they breathe in the gas and go to sleep, it is also common for them to move their arms, legs and eyes, and have noisy breathing. This is a normal effect of the anaesthetic, and they will not remember any of this.
If your child is going to sleep using an intravenous anaesthetic, this medication may sting in their arm for a brief period before they go to sleep. They may also move their arms, legs and eyes in unusual ways, and again these are all common and expected effects of the anaesthetic medication.
Emergency surgery and after hours surgery are different circumstances. Your child’s safety is central to everything we do, and for this reason in these and other specific circumstances you may not be allowed to accompany your child into the operating theatre.
What is recovery?
The recovery ward is where your child will be taken after the procedure is finished. Here nurses will closely monitor your child and ensure that they are safely awake, comfortable and ready to go to the Children’s Ward.
Your child will often be asleep on arrival, and it is not uncommon for children to remain asleep or drowsy for at least 30 minutes after the end of their anaesthetic.
It is not uncommon for children to wake up distressed and agitated, as they are in a foreign environment, surrounded by strangers, and potentially with some discomfort or pain after surgery. This generally settles with time and reassurance, and your presence and care is often the most helpful treatment. Occasionally some children will need further medication to settle them.
A sore throat is not uncommon, as many types of anaesthesia will require a small breathing tube to be placed in your child’s throat when they are asleep. This usually gets better on its own or with simple pain relief such as paracetamol.
WHEN Can we go home?
If your child is due to go home the same day as their procedure, you will usually be able to leave hospital within 2 hours of waking from the anaesthetic. If your child has had more extensive or after hours surgery, the surgical team will inform you a likely discharge time.