If your child has been referred to Mass General 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.

Getting Ready for Surgery Video

This informative short video is hosted by a pediatric patient at MGfC. She explains in child-friendly terms what will happen when children check in for surgery, including how vital signs are checked, who you may meet (including doctors, nurses and child life specialists), how anesthesia is administered, and why accompanying grown ups have to wear those funny blue suits.

Vídeo en Español: Preparándose para la cirugía

Pre-operative Phone Screening

Before surgery, you will receive a phone call from a nurse to review your child's medical history, including allergies and medications. This phone call is part of the pre-operative screening for the anesthesia team. You will meet the anesthesia team on the day of surgery.

The Day of the Surgery

On the morning of surgery, patients will go to the third floor of the Ellison Building. 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 have parents carry younger children into the operating room. Older children will be taken into the operating room on a gurney.

During the Surgery

For longer surgical procedures, you will be asked for your cell phone number so you can step outside or get something to eat but still be reached if necessary. 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 in the recovery area. Ideally we have parents in the recovery room as soon as the patient arrives and intraoperative information has been conveyed to the recovery team. Typically, children stay an hour or two in the recovery room prior to discharge home or up to the inpatient floors, if staying overnight. 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 or phone call. 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
  • Imaging test such as chest xray

Your care team may include a nurse practitioner, and/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.

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 Services at 617-724-1211. Child life services are also available on the day of surgery to help prepare your child for what to expect throughout the day.

Tips to Get Your Child Ready for Surgery

This series of handouts gives tips to help you get your child ready for surgery, based on his/her age. Learn when to talk to your child about the surgery, common stressors your child might experience and ways to help your child feel more calm and comfortable.