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The Informed Parent


by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Mar. 25, 2002

When three-year-old Billy was scheduled for a tonsillectomy operation the parents were very apprehensive about the course of action. Questions were asked regarding outpatient procedure. I was asked if one or both parents could go into the surgery with him. How safe would the anesthesia be?

I assured them that it is perfectly normal to be concerned and anxious when their child is scheduled for surgery. Issues of safety and the risk of anesthesia are the usual questions a pediatrician hears from such parents. One should always discuss specifics with your child’s pediatrician. A child’s particular surgery and his overall health are taken into consideration when discussing the safety of a particular surgical procedure. Additionally, the experience of the pediatric surgeon and the child’s pediatric anesthesiologist are other important considerations.

The risk of general anesthesia is greatly reduced these days with the use of multiple monitoring tools. Billy’s anesthesiologist will discuss the entire topic of anesthesia with them before the operation, and will answer any particular questions they might have. Medical centers with pediatric anesthesiologists often let parents stay with their child up until he receives the anesthesia and falls asleep. They will again let the parents into the recovery room as their child wakes up. During the surgery parents usually wait in the waiting room, and will usually speak with the surgeon after the procedure.

Many pediatric hospitals have Child Life specialists who are invaluable partners to the parents, child patient, and to the hospital team. Child Life specialists offer preoperative visits, where the specifics of the surgery, a tour of the areas that the child will visit during his hospital stay, and other various procedures are discussed at the child’s developmental level. This way, such preparation will help both the patient and his parents understand the preoperative routine, the operation, and what to expect post-operatively. Many children and their parents are greatly comforted by these tour talks.

Rest assured, everyone involved in Billy’s care--the pediatrician, the child’s surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the hospital staff--will make this as positive an experience as possible for him.

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