If your child has been referred to MassGeneral Hospital for Children for surgery by your pediatrician or family practitioner, we’ll first schedule a consultation visit with you. You’ll learn more about your child’s surgery and ideally book the surgery date. At this point, you may also sign a consent form for your child’s surgery. Or you may send the signed form to us later, if you need additional time to decide whether to move forward with the surgery.

Pre-Admission Testing

Depending on your child’s case, you may need to complete pre-admission testing that could include laboratory, blood work and other tests. Your physician will let you know ahead of time. In many cases, pre-admission testing isn’t performed for outpatient surgeries. Inpatient cases usually mean your child will have all tests completed the previous day since he/she will be admitted to the hospital the night before surgery. A pre-operative clinic visit also will be scheduled.

The Day of the Surgery

On the morning of surgery, patients will go to the third floor of the Wang Ambulatory Care Center. You’ll meet with the nursing staff, who will conduct a complete assessment of your child. Then you’ll meet with a nurse practitioner or medical or surgical resident (physicians who are completing extra years of training). Finally, you’ll meet with a representative from the Anesthesia Department who will explain how an anesthesiologist will help your child fall into a special sleep before surgery so he/she won’t feel any pain.


You’ll need to wear a “jump suit,” a kind of surgical scrubs, so you can stay with your child while the anesthesiologist is helping him/her fall asleep before the operation. Anesthesiologists usually carry younger children into the operating room, which you may watch. Older children will be taken in on a gurney.

During the Surgery

For longer surgical procedures, you’ll be given a pager so you can step outside or get something to eat. You’ll be notified when the surgical staff has an update for you. When your surgeon meets with you after the procedure, you’ll be able to see your child about 30 minutes later in the recovery area. Inpatient cases will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Recovery Unit (PACU) for a few hours before being transferred to one of the inpatient floors. Parents may stay with their child around the clock if they’d like—there are no set visiting hours.

Pre-Op Clinic Visits

Before your child’s surgery, your doctor will request that you schedule a pre-operative clinic visit. The pre-op clinic visit is an opportunity to meet with members of the health care team to help you and your child feel more comfortable. You’ll also fill out forms and your child may undergo a few necessary tests ordered by your doctor. These tests can vary depending on your child’s case but can include:

  • Checking vital signs, such as blood pressure
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • An EKG (electrocardiogram) to check your child’s heart, or other imaging test

You’ll also meet with a nurse, maybe a nurse practitioner, medical or surgical resident (a physician receiving extra training in a given specialty), or anesthesiologist. They’ll gather information about your child’s medical history and will share information about how you can prepare for surgery. You and your child will learn what you can expect before, during and after surgery. Our goal is to make you and your child as comfortable as possible. We invite you to come prepared with a list of questions if you’d like.

Also feel free to ask a nurse for a free copy of Operation Day, a colorful and educational book from a child’s perspective that answers questions and offers insights in a way that they will understand.

The Day of Your Child’s Visit

Your child may eat and drink as usual before the pre-operative visit unless your doctor said not to.

Please bring these items with you to your appointment:

  • Eyeglasses (to read and fill out forms)
  • The names and doses of your child’s current medications. Some parents find it more convenient to just bring the bottles of medication with them. Also bring over-the-counter medications your doctor may have prescribed, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, inhalers, creams and cold medications
  • A list of your child’s allergies (to medicines, food, latex, dust, pollen or other things in the environment)
  • Doctors’ names and phone numbers (including your child’s pediatrician or family practitioner)
  • Any information on your child’s medical history and previous surgeries
  • Imaging and laboratory tests. Discuss with your physician before this visit how these results will be shared with the surgery department; you may be required to bring them to your child’s pre-op visit

Talking with Your Child about Surgery

If you have questions or concerns about how to talk with your child about surgery, please contact child life specialist Melissa Tecci, MS, CCLS, at 617-643-9276 or mtecci@partners.org. Child life services are also available on the day of surgery to help prepare your child for what to expect throughout the day.

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