Clean Hands

Here’s another way to help your child have a good result after surgery.  Remind each person you see to wash their hands before touching your child. Here are some polite ways to remind your doctor he didn't wash his hands before coming into the room -
• 'Doctor, I didn't see you wash your hands. Did you do that outside?'
• 'I didn't see you clean your hands, so would you please do it in front of me?'
• 'Did you wash your hands before you came in? You know I need to make sure.'
• 'Would you mind washing your hands one more time before we proceed with care?'

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You Child Is Coming For Surgery

Nothing calms a child better than a confident parent. When your child comes for surgery, it's often an anxious time for you and your child. There is nowhere safer to be during medical procedures than under the watchful one-on-one doctor care our anesthesiologists provide during every surgery, with every kind of drug or equipment within easy reach. All anesthesiologists in Tacoma Anesthesia Associates have had specialized training in anesthesia for children during their education after medical school, at top centers around North America. Every day, our doctors provide specialized care for many children. We are familiar with all ages of patients, with the unique aspects of children’s medical conditions, and with the special needs and concerns of children and their parents / caregivers. 

What can you do to help your child prepare for surgery? Children can tell at a surprisingly young age if Mom or Dad is anxious. Talk to them! The best way to describe anesthesia to young children is “sleepy medicine you breathe that helps you sleep so you don’t feel anything while the doctor fixes part of your body.” Give them very simple (specific and concrete) explanations. Tell them about the hospital, about the team of friendly helpers who will take them into the special room, about the sleepy-air mask they will breathe through - you can practice at home breathing through a paper cone or coffee filter over their nose with a strong-smelling marker ink drawn inside. Emphasize that when they wake up they will see you soon, and there will be lots of people there to make sure they're comfortable. The more you can explain about the medical team that is dedicated to their care, the more they will see past any anxiety and will look at the experience positively. 

If your child has been exposed to a contagious illness or has had an MRSA infection, make sure you tell the first people you see at the hospital, so we can take appropriate precautions to prevent spreading illness to others. If you receive a phone call the day before surgery with instructions about when to stop eating and drinking, follow those directions. The instructions are for patient safety, to prevent anything from the stomach interfering with breathing during anesthesia. 

To help yourself prepare for the day of surgery, write down your questions and your child's questions, because you don't want to forget them in the busy activity as your child heads in for surgery. 

Here are 4 common questions parents / caregivers and children ask: the duration of surgery, how long it takes to awaken after surgery, and the after-effects of anesthetic. Teenagers are frequently concerned about the possibility of suddenly awakening during surgery. 

1) Duration of surgery. Have this discussion with your surgeon. The vast majority of children's surgery is less than an hour. But know that if surgery is taking longer than you were told, it's not unusual, and the operating room team is mindful of keeping you updated as things progress. 

2) How soon will I wake up after surgery? Often, children start to open their eyes as they leave the operating room. However, they may fall asleep again or need nursing attention for an hour or more after surgery. Sometimes children are recovering from surgery at their normal naptime, which makes them sleep longer. As a general rule, the longer the surgery, the slower the awakening. In any case, your healthcare team knows it's a priority to unite you with your child as soon as it’s safe to do so. 

3) After-effects of anesthesia are mild, and almost every drug used is very short acting. However, trace levels of leftover anesthetic will make your child more irritable, easily startled, nauseated, and more clumsy than usual for a day. Your child may feel fine during recovery, then suddenly throw up without warning in the car on the way home - so be prepared. Watch your child for clues of pain after surgery, especially a few hours afterward when stronger pain medicines are starting to wear off. It's easier to give the pain medicine early than to try and 'catch up' with the pain later. 

4) Will I be aware of anything during surgery? In the operating room, many monitors are attached to keep an eye on your heartbeat and breathing. These provide an early indicator of how much anesthetic you need and are getting, so your anesthesiologist knows (long before you're aware) if you need more anesthetic. If you ask people carefully after surgery, about 1 in a thousand will remember anything. And usually they remember a sound like a song on the radio or something the surgeon said. The chance that you will remember more than that is even more rare. So the 'urban legends' your friends tell you about being awake and unable to move during surgery make great Hollywood movies but are in fact exceedingly rare. 

We hope this page helps answer your questions before surgery, and helps you teach your child about anesthesia in a way that helps them have the best experience possible. Feel free to ask your anesthesiologist any other questions that will help put you at ease before surgery.

For interested parents:
Our hospital has useful information on practical aspects of coming in for surgery at MaryBridge. Here are some great tips on how to cope with bringing your child to hospital.
Do you know how to comfort children at different ages, and how to explain medical procedures so they'll understand?
You may be wondering about our policy on parents coming into the recovery room.
You can find more information on children and anesthesia at the national anesthesia society webpages, where there are anesthesia brochures(see right hand column) and anesthesia information.
The Lifeline to Modern Medicine campaign is a large effort to help everyone understand what anesthesiologists do.