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Having Surgery at Children's

What to Expect the Day of Surgery


We know surgery can be a stressful experience for your family, and Children’s National Medical Center is dedicated to making this a smooth process for you. Our Center for Surgical Care is designed with a focus on family-centered care and allows your child to go through all the steps to prepare for surgery in one location. The center has private induction rooms, private and semi-private recovery bays, as well as a playroom. The recovery area is spacious and each bay provides families with comfort and privacy.

When should I be there?
You will receive a call two business days prior to surgery before telling you when you should be there. In general, please plan to report to the Center for Surgical Care 2 hours before the scheduled surgery time.

When I arrive at Children’s, where do I go?
When you arrive at Children’s, you can park in the visitor parking garage, and go up to the first floor. Personalized directions from your home are also available. All visitors are required to sign in at the Welcome Desk. From there, take the elevators to the second floor, and follow the signs to Surgery. Please bring a photo I.D. to receive a visitor’s badge. Patients age 18 or older must have a photo I.D.

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What do I do when I get to the Center for Surgical Care?
When you arrive, the first thing you do is check in. After that, you will be directed to registration.

After registration, the nurse, anesthesiologist, and surgeon will assess your child and interview you. They will discuss the details of their treatment plan and answer any questions you might have.

You will be given a pager, similar to the kind that restaurants use, which will buzz when your child’s doctor has an update for you or when it is time for you to be reunited with your child. The pager will work in the cafeteria, and the main atrium. The pager will not work outside of the hospital.

In keeping with the policy at Children’s National, all female patients who are of menstruating age will have a urine pregnancy test prior to receiving anesthesia.

You might be brought to the playroom where your child will be able to play with toys, puzzles, and games while waiting for the surgery to start.


To help reduce the risk of infection after surgery, please wash or sanitize your hands before and after visiting a patient, using the bathroom, and after you sneeze or cough. You are welcome to use any sink or waterless hand gel dispenser to clean hands at any time.

What happens when it is time for surgery?
 Having Surgery at Children's - What to Expect the Day of Surgery
Once care has been assumed by the anesthesiologist, you will go back to the waiting room while your child is transported on a stretcher to the operating room (OR). In the OR, the anesthesiologist will provide anesthesia and continuously monitor your child. Medications will be given during surgery to help your child wake up with minimal discomfort. Once your child’s surgery is complete, the surgeon will discuss the operation with you.

Why does my child have an intravenous catheter (IV)?
In most operative cases, your child will receive an intravenous catheter (IV). The IV is very important! The anesthesiologist will use it throughout the surgery and the recovery nurse will use it while your child is waking up. The IV allows your child to receive hydration and various medications, including pain medication and possible rescue medication. Your recovery nurse will remove it when your child is safe and ready to be discharged.

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How long will my child’s surgery take?
Each surgery is different and varies in length. Parents are given a pager (similar to those in a restaurant) that will alert you when the surgeon has an update or when your child is finished.

Why is my surgery delayed?
We strive to be on schedule, but occasionally delays do occur. Surgery times are approximated start times. We apologize if there is any delay with your procedure time. Please contact a staff member or the concierge if you have questions while you are waiting.

 Where do I wait while my child is in surgery?
While your child is in surgery, you will be directed to the family waiting room. You can periodically check in with staff at the information desk to receive an update on your child’s status. You may also want to go to the  Cafeteria on the second floor of the hospital.
Once your child’s surgery is complete, you will be paged and the surgeon will discuss the operation with you in a private consultation room.

Where can I get food and refreshments while my child is in surgery?

  • The cafeteria is located on the second floor of the hospital
  • Dr. Bear’s Cafe is located on the 7th floor of the East Inpatient Tower.

Signs are posted in the building to help find your way. Please remember that no food is allowed in the surgical preparation area out of respect for children who are having surgery, and are not allowed to eat or drink. There are children fasting for surgery and the smell and sight of food can make it more difficult for them.

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