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Preparing for Surgery

Originally published on November 10, 2009
Most recently updated on April 10, 2013

Your child’s neurosurgeon will go over the precise details of what will take place during your child’s surgery. It is important, for several reasons, that you clearly understand what is going to take place. Not only are you going to be asked to give informed consent by signing the papers that give the surgeon permission to operate but you are also going to need to understand for yourself and your child what will take place. By giving consent, you acknowledge that everything has been explained to you—and that you understand it. Preparing your child to undergo neurosurgery can truly help with their adjustment after the operation.

Children often pick up information from overhearing parents and family members talking. Therefore, however young your child is, it is a good idea to discuss the surgery with him or her. It will help prepare your child for surgery if you explain what is going to happen in terms that are age-appropriate and easily understandable. Children can become overwhelmed and anxious if they are given either too much detailed information or too little information about a procedure or operation. It is also wise to address your child’s questions and concerns. This allows less room for your child’s vivid imagination to fill in the blanks. The hospital’s child life specialist and social worker are trained to help you find good ways to talk with your child about this difficult topic.

“It helped me when my parents told me that I would be going through a tough, demanding time but that my diagnosis and treatment was something that my parents and I would go through together, and that even though it would be hard, we would be stronger if we worked together.”

Encourage your child to ask questions of the neurosurgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses. Your child’s concerns may be more immediate and very different from yours. You may ask about the length of surgery or technical procedures, but your child may be concerned with how he will feel when he awakes after surgery or how soon afterward she can eat. Children also tend to be much more straightforward than most adults and may have surprising questions such as “What does a brain feel like?” for the neurosurgeon.

The length of the surgery itself is impossible to predict. Operating-room schedules can change because of emergencies. Because preoperative scans do not always accurately predict what the surgeon will find, the operation often feels additionally stressful for parents. There is usually a special waiting room where you can stay. Ask if you will be provided with surgical updates, often given by a nurse who comes to the waiting area, throughout your child’s operation. Generally, the surgeon will meet you afterward and explain in detail what was done. Specific medical terms related to your child’s particular operation will be explained by the doctor (and may be defined in the Glossary in this book). Although the type of tumor may be recognized by the doctor during surgery, the exact pathology can’t be determined until a tumor sample is sent to a lab for identification. It may take up to a week to get the pathology results; however, the surgeon may get a verbal preliminary report within 24 hours.

After surgery, your child will probably be kept in the recovery room until the anesthesia wears off. You might want to inquire prior to surgery if you will be able to go into the recovery room to be with your child. Many institutions prefer that one or both parents be at the child’s bedside when the child awakes after surgery. This can ease a child’s fears and simply make him or her more comfortable. From the recovery room, the child is then usually moved to the pediatric intensive-care unit (PICU) for precise monitoring.

It might be upsetting for you and your family to see IV tubes, drainage tubes, and machines attached to your child, but you can be a reassuring presence simply by talking to and touching your child. If you have questions about procedures or equipment (such as neurological checkups, follow-up scans, a catheter, sutures, hair removal, or bandages), askcheap flights flight to new york ! Right after surgery, some of your child’s symptoms may be temporarily worse than before, because of swelling or the trauma of surgery. But remember that children can be amazingly resilient and that the healing process usually begins immediately.

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