Some children may need to have an operation as part of their treatment. Sometimes this is a planned event such as needing to have tonsils removed, but other times this is unexpected for example, with a broken leg. Preparing for an operation and the care that is needed afterwards is very similar for planned or emergency operations.
It can help to prepare your child for their operation if they are given simple, honest explanations about why they are coming into hospital and what will happen. This will help them to recover faster and cope better with the experience.
You and your child may like to watch this short video before coming to hospital for an operation. It explains what your child can expect to happen, and will help to answer some of the questions you both may have.
Before the Operation
If the operation is planned then you may be asked to attend a pre-admission clinic before coming to the ward where you will see a doctor who will explain what will happen and order any tests that may need to be carried out before their admission. In some cases this is done on the ward when you arrive – this may mean that you have been asked to come to the ward early on the day of your operation or even the day before to allow time for this.
We ask that you contact the ward on the morning of your admission before you leave home to check that there is still a bed available for you as emergency cases can sometimes cause the ward to become very busy. If your child becomes unwell immediately prior to admission for a planned operation with a cough, cold, temperature or other such illness, please contact the ward for further advice.
Before your child’s operation, parents or guardians will be asked to sign a consent form. This is to show that you are happy for the operation to go ahead and that you understand what is going to happen. The consent form will be explained by a doctor and this is the perfect time to ask any questions. The form is usually signed by the child's parents and in certain circumstances by the child as well. You will also be seen by an anaesthetist (the doctor who will look after your child while they are asleep.) and again this is a good time to ask any questions or raise any concerns.
Before the operation you will be given some Nil by Mouth (fasting) instructions. If your child is having a planned operation you will be made aware of these before you come to the hospital and if this is an emergency then this will be explained to you on the ward. It is important that these instructions are followed for safety reasons. If you have any questions about this then please speak to the nursing staff.
Going to Theatre
On the day of the operation your child will be asked to wear a theatre gown. We may also apply "magic cream" to numb the skin as some children may be given their anaesthetic through a small tube in their hand inserted by a needle. In other cases children may be given their anaesthetic by breathing in a mask. Please discuss which method is best for your child with their anaesthetic team.
Your child’s nurse will take your their temperature, weight, pulse and breathing rate and go through a plan for the day. Children can take a toy or comfort item (such as a dummy) with them to theatre as well. You will be asked a series of questions several times before theatre for safety reasons as well.
Your nurse will try to give you an idea about what time your child is likely to have their operation. If there is a delay (such as the surgeon being involved in an emergency) they will also keep you informed.
A nurse from the theatre department will come to the ward to collect your child to take them to theatre. Both parents are welcome to accompany your child to theatre. First you will be taken to the reception area where you will meet the staff who will take care of your child during the operation and who will check that there are no further questions. We understand that having an operation can be a scary experience, but both Sarum and theatre staff will help reassure and support you all through this process. Theatre staff will then take you and your child to the anaesthetic room. There is space for one parent to come into the room with their child and stay with them until they are asleep.
During the Operation
Your child may be away from the ward for a while. Many parents use this time to have a break, but we ask parents to return to the ward rather than the theatre department so that Sarum staff can keep you up to date with your child's progress and let you know when they have been taken to Recovery after their operation.
Recovery is an area within the theatre department where your child will be taken to be cared for until they are awake and ready to go back to the ward. Recovery staff will contact the ward when your child is beginning to wake and may ask for you to come to the department to sit with your child until they are ready to return to the ward. Sometimes, the doctor will come to recovery to explain what has happened. It is normal for your child to be very sleepy if they have had a general anaesthetic.
The nurse caring for your child will come from Sarum ward when your child is awake and escort them back to the ward. They will be able to explain what care is required in the next 24 hours and if your child needs to remain in hospital.
When your child comes back to the ward they may be sleepy and sometimes feel upset. This is normal following an anaesthetic and wears off very quickly. Your nurse will help you during this and will also check on your child frequently until they are feeling better. Your child may have a small plastic tube called a cannula in their hand, arm or foot which may be covered with a bandage. This is kept in place so that nursing staff can give medication such as antibiotics or anti-sickness medicine if needed. The nurse will also explain when your child can eat and drink again. Your child may have a drip, drainage tubes or have a dressing in place. Their nurse will show these to you and explain what they are for. Please feel free to ask any questions.
Nursing staff will regularly check that your child is not in pain using a pain score system. We use a variety of medicines to relieve pain. The nurse looking after your child will be happy to explain their mediation with you.
When your child is ready to go home, the nurse will explain what to do in the next few days to help care for your child. You will also be given some written information and if your child needs any medication, this will also be supplied. The nurse will also explain if any appointments are needed, such as for our dressings clinic and when this will be. Your child's cannula will also be removed by a nurse at this point as well. It is a good idea to have a supply of children's paracetamol and ibuprofen at home to use for the first few days after your child is discharged.