Your Child’s Surgery Day

Surgery can be stressful for children and caregivers. This page explains what to expect when your child has same-day surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Charlottetown, or at a hospital in PEI.

What should I do to prepare my child for same-day surgery? 

Read the Preoperative Guide for the Pediatric Surgical Patient for instructions on: 

  • eating and drinking before surgery
  • medication
  • items to have on hand for your return home
  • personal grooming (nail polish, perfumes, long hair)
  • what to bring to the hospital 
  • other considerations 

To help your child prepare emotionally, see Talking to Your Child about Their Surgery.

When should we arrive at the hospital? 

The day before your child’s surgery, call the QEH Same Day Surgery Unit (902-894-2245) between 2:30 and 3:30 pm to find out what time you should arrive at the hospital with your child.

Plan to be at the hospital two hours before your child’s surgery time.

Enter the hospital through the main entrance and register your child at the Admitting Department. 

Once your child is registered, follow the signs to the Pre-Surgery Clinic Reception area. From here, you and your child will be brought into the Same Day Surgery Unit, where the nursing staff will prepare your child for their operation. 

What happens before my child enters the operating room? 

A Same Day Surgery nurse will take your child’s vital signs (temperature, heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation) and ask questions to make sure your child is ready to have surgery. 

Younger children will have their IV started after they are asleep in the operating room. Older children may have their IV started before they are transferred to the operating room, but numbing cream can be applied to reduce discomfort.

If your child has begun menstruating, a urine pregnancy test will be completed before they receive general anesthesia.

Your child’s surgeon and anesthetist will speak with you before the procedure to answer any questions. 

Your child may receive medication to help with anxiety before their surgery. The medication is usually given by mouth. It may make your child drowsy.

An operating room nurse will also ask questions to ensure your child is ready to have surgery. Then they will transfer your child to the operating room. 

The thought of surgery can be frightening for your child. You can help your child by remaining calm and reassuring. 

Where do I wait while my child is in surgery?

When your child goes in for surgery, you will be directed back to the Same Day Surgery waiting room. You can wait here until your child’s surgery is done. 

What happens after my child’s surgery?

The Recovery Room (PACU)

After your child’s surgery, the anesthesiologist and operating room nurse will bring your child to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU, also known as the recovery room). Here, they will be closely monitored by another nurse. 

The PACU is a large wide-open room with many patient bays containing monitoring equipment. It can be busy and noisy when there are multiple patients recovering from surgery in the room. The monitors help the nurses and doctors keep a close eye on how your child is doing after surgery.

The equipment may sound an alarm. This is usually not a cause for concern: your child’s nurse will check on your child. 

After your child wakes up

How long it takes a child to wake after surgery can vary. Once your child is awake, a PACU nurse may come to get you or, if your child is ready to leave, bring your child to you.

Most children wake up crying after surgery. This is normal and expected. It is important for you to stay calm and reassure your child. You are encouraged to help comfort your child in the way that works best for them.  

Your child’s nurse will decide when they are ready to leave the recovery room. They will either be transferred back to the Same Day Surgery Unit to be discharged home or, depending on the type of surgery, transferred to the pediatric unit (Unit 5) for further monitoring. 

If your child is transferred to Unit 5, nurses will continue to monitor them to make sure they are drinking well and their pain and/or nausea are under control. If all goes well, they will be discharged later the same day. Your child’s IV usually stays in until they are discharged home.

When can we go home? 

Most children having same-day surgery can go home about an hour after their surgery is complete. 

Before you leave with your child, the Same Day Surgery nurse will provide you with discharge instructions.

Your child requires close monitoring by a responsible adult for 24 hours after their surgery.

It is best if an adult can sit beside the child on the drive home to provide care to the child if they need it. Please arrange for a drive or a taxi so that you can be available to your child. 


Published date: 
April 13, 2023
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