Preparing for Surgery: Information for Caregivers

Basic Preparation

At CHOC we do everything possible to ensure that on the day of the surgery or procedure we can focus all of our energy on the patient. Because of this, patients’ caregivers may receive calls from several different departments in the days leading up to the procedure. These calls may cover issues ranging from the patient’s health history to insurance and billing information.

It is important on the day of surgery that patients’ caregivers—parents and legal guardians—are able to focus on the child as well. Caregivers receive a lot of information and will be asked many questions by our staff. We suggest that families make other arrangements for the patients’ siblings so that they can focus all of their attention on the child receiving surgery.

Prior to any surgery or procedure, patients’ caregivers will be asked to sign an informed consent form. This form verifies that patients’ legal caregivers understand the risk of the patients’ surgery or procedure. Read more about informed consent.

Some patients may also be required to come to CHOC for preoperative testing. These tests are determined based upon the child’s age, condition, type of surgery or procedure and the anesthesia that will be used.

If the child is under the care of any specialists (i.e., geneticist, neurologist, endocrinologist, cardiologist, nephrologist, pulmonologist or metabolic physician), please check with the child’s surgeon to see if it is necessary to be cleared by the specialist prior to undergoing anesthesia.

If you have personal, ethical or spiritual values that may affect how we may work together, we want to know. We will do everything we can to respect the patient and family’s wishes. Prior to surgery, please notify the child’s surgeon and “pre-op” nurse of any religious practices that will affect the child’s care, including restrictions on diet, medications and/or blood transfusions.

Did you know?

At CHOC we have a chaplain available for spiritual and emotional support. Patients and families who would like to be visited by a chaplain prior to the child’s procedure for prayer and spiritual support, should notify the “pre-op” nurse. Learn more about our spiritual care services.

The day before surgery

The day before surgery (or a procedure), caregivers will receive a phone call from a preoperative “pre-op” nurse who will ask additional questions about the child’s health history, home medications and treatments. The nurse will also explain when to arrive at the hospital and where to park. It is very important that this call be returned as quickly as possible.

The child must be bathed the night before their surgery. If the child’s surgeon has provided a special solution, please use it as instructed. Please do not attempt to shave the surgical area.

Infection Prevention Starts with Patients and their Families

Surgical patients with any of the symptoms below the day before or day of surgery should contact the preoperative nurses at Procedure Center at 714-509-9185 until 7p.m. Monday through Friday or 714-509-9175 on weekends or after 7p.m. Monday through Friday.

  • cough
  • sore throat
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • runny nose

Eating, drinking and surgery

All surgical patients must not eat or drink several hours prior to surgery. (You may hear this referred to as “NPO.”) In addition, some patients may be put on special restrictive diets in the days prior to surgery. Whether the child’s diet restrictions are days or hours they are equally important. These restrictions are put into place for the child’s safety and protection and include any G-tube or parenteral feedings. These restrictions also include gum, hard candy, breast milk and water.

If the patient takes medications by mouth, these medications must be discussed with the preoperative nurse beforehand. The nurse will advise on whether the child should take the medications the morning of surgery. This can also be discussed with the child’s surgeon when the surgery appointment is scheduled. Any questions about medications the day of surgery should be directed to the preoperative unit at 714-509-8576 as early as 5:00 a.m.

Not being able to feed a child—whether the child is an infant or a teen—can be heartbreaking for caregivers. It is important to know that failure to obey any of the NPO guidelines will result in postponement, or even cancellation, of the child’s surgery or procedure. Read CHOC’s official NPO Guidelines.

What to wear and pack for surgery

We want our patients and their families to feel at home at CHOC. We provide many of the comforts of home, including age appropriate toys and activities. We also provide patients with hospital gowns, slipper socks, diapers, and linens, although children often enjoy having their own clothing and personal items from home. Items from home bring children comfort during what can be a stressful time.

Pack the following for children of all ages:

  • The patient’s medical records and insurance card.
  • Because only a parent or documented legal guardian is permitted to sign the surgery and anesthesia consent forms, caregivers should bring any necessary court papers documenting legal guardianship. It is very important that foster parents or legal guardians bring the required paperwork. Grandparents or other relatives may not sign unless they are the designated legal guardian with supporting legal documentation.
  • Comfortable clothes, like pajamas and sweats, that are loose fitting. (All patients must wear the hospital-provided gown for surgery and may not be able to wear their own clothing immediately after their procedure.)
  • Slippers or shoes
  • List of prescription and nonprescription medicines and vitamin supplements, including the name, dosage and concentration. Caregivers can also bring the actual bottles of medicines or vitamins.
  • The child’s formula from home for after the surgery or procedure and/or any special medical equipment, including feeding tubes, ventilator batteries and power cords, and suction catheters

For infants and younger children:

  • Any security items the child needs or wants, such as a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or pacifier. The familiarity of such objects can provide children with comfort and reassurance during their hospital stay.
  • Bottles and sippy cups the patient may prefer to use after surgery when the doctor or nurse has said the he or she may resume drinking.

For school-age children, teens and young adults:

  • Favorite toy or security item from home
  • Personal MP3 player or handheld game with headphones
  • Books and magazines
  • Bathrobe

For Caregivers:

  • Phone numbers of friends and relatives
  • Things to do to pass the time, such as a book or magazines, knitting or other craft project, crossword puzzles, etc.
  • Change of clothes and personal toiletries like deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, etc., especially if the surgery is scheduled to last a long time or the child will be moved to the inpatient unit after surgery. CHOC is unable to provide personal care items for patients’ visitors and family members.

We kindly ask that families do not pack the following items:

  • Decorations
  • Radios, MP3 docks and other devices that play music without headphones
  • Toys that make noise or take up a lot of room.
  • Live plants
  • Perfumes and body sprays. Please also limit the perfumes and body sprays worn by visitors.
  • Latex (rubber) balloons

Other things to consider while packing:

  • If the child will be moving on to the inpatient unit after surgery, we recommend bringing extra clothing (should the child not want to wear the CHOC-provided gowns) and personal care items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and hair brush.
  • Patients’ families are responsible for all of the patient’s personal belongings. Occasionally, the cleaning staff may mistakenly grab personal items (stuffed animals, personal linens and other small items) that are in the bedding as they change the linens. Once these items are gone, it is very difficult to track them down and they could be lost for good.
  • If a family forgets personal items after discharge, we are unable to store the items until the patient’s next visit because of very limited storage space.

Talk about it!

All patients—from infants to young adults—benefit from preparing and talking about surgery ahead of time. Learn more in our age-specific preparation guides.