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Prior to Surgery

Preparing for surgery

Once you know that your child may require surgery, you should contact your insurance carrier to ensure your child's coverage. You may be asked by your surgeon to have your child evaluated by his or her pediatrician prior to surgery in order to obtain a history and physical. The history and physical can also be performed the day of surgery in the Children's Ambulatory Recovery and Express Services Unit (CARES) in the lobby level of the hospital by a nurse practitioner if this is approved by your surgeon.

Please bring all preoperative test results, a copy of the history and physical, insurance card and guardianship papers (if applicable) with you the day of surgery or have this information faxed to the CARES Unit at 402-955-4730.

You may also want to prepare a list of questions or concerns to discuss with your child's surgeon the day of surgery.

Operation Learn

Before your child's scheduled surgery, you may want to participate in our pre-surgical program designed for children ages 3 to 8 years old and their families. The program allows families the opportunity to see what will happen when their child has surgery at Children's. You and your child will watch a video that walks you through the surgery process, your child will participate in medical play, and you will then be provided a tour of the surgical service areas. The program is facilitated by a child life specialist, who will address any individual questions and concerns. The program is free to any family whose child is preparing for surgery at Children's. Programs are held weekly on Tuesday evenings. Individual preparation sessions are available by appointment. For more information or to register, contact the CARES Child Life staff at 402-955-5309.

Common concerns before surgery

As the surgery day approaches, explain to your child why he or she is having surgery in simple, non-threatening words. Let your child know that the surgery is a way to help them feel better. Use simple, honest explanations to tell your child what will happen. Listen to your child's questions and present simple answers.

The following will help you prepare for common concerns and fears your child may have before surgery.

Birth to 1 year

Children take cues from parents. The more calm and relaxed you are, the more relaxed your child also will be.

Stress to infants can include the following:

  • Separation from parents.
  • Having many different caregivers.
  • Seeing strange sights, sounds and smells.

1 to 2 years

Preparation should take place one to two days before surgery.

Common stresses and fears include:

  • Being left alone.
  • Being in contact with unfamiliar people.
  • Painful procedures.
  • Medical equipment that looks and sounds scary.
3 to 5 years

Preparation should take place three to five days before surgery to give your child time to ask questions. Be patient with your child. It is normal for children to require more attention during this time. 

Common stressors and fears include:

  • Thinks that he is in the hospital because he is in trouble or being punished.
  • Fear of having a part of the body damaged.
  • Fear of needles and shots.
  • Fear of waking up during surgery.
  • Fear of pain or the possibility of pain.

6 to 11 years

Preparation should take place a few days to two weeks before surgery. After talking to your child about the surgery, have him repeat back what you have told him to see if he understands what is going to happen. This will give you the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings.

Common stressors and fears include:

  • Thinks that he is in the hospital because he is in trouble or being punished.
  • Having a part of the body destroyed or injured.
  • Loss of control.
  • Pain or the possibility of pain.
  • Needles and shots.
  • Dying during surgery.
12 years and older

Your child will want to be involved in deciding what happens to her and the kind of care that she receives. Include your child in making decisions and planning for the surgery as much as possible. Your child may not want to admit that she does not understand medical explanations. Make sure that your child is comfortable asking questions and that she fully understands what is happening.

Common fears and concerns include:

  • Loss of control.
  • Lack of privacy.
  • Having a part of her body damaged or changed in appearance.
  • Fear of surgery and related risks.


Possible temporary post-op behavior changes:

  • Acting younger (bed-wetting or thumb-sucking).
  • Changes in eating.
  • Having more or less energy than usual.
  • Having new fears such as not wanting to sleep or being afraid of the dark.
  • Needing more attention or physical touch.
  • Needing to talk about the surgery.
  • Sleeping more than usual for the first few days.


Help us help your child

Your surgery experience will go more smoothly if you follow the instructions provided and you help us make the experience less stressful to your child. To assist us, please:

  • Be actively involved in your child's care and treatment.
  • Keep your name band and your child's name band on throughout his/her hospital stay.
  • Communicate with your child's caregivers.
  • Know and implement your child's NPO (nothing by mouth) times.
  • Know your child's medications and doses.
  • Wash hands often.
  • Follow fall prevention safety recommendations.
  • Follow isolation recommendations (if applicable).