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Getting ready for surgery

Giving consent
Learning about your child's surgery
Talking about the surgery with your child
Confirming surgery
Tools to help children cope


Before your child’s surgery, you’ll need to fill out a questionnaire about your child’s medical history. Your child may need to see an anesthesiologist before surgery in the pre-assessement clinic. This will depend on your child’s medical history and the surgery or procedure.

Telephone Assessment

A visit to the pre-assessment clinic isn’t always needed if your child is healthy and having a minor surgery. In this case, a nurse may call you a few weeks ahead of time to:

  • Review the questionnaire that you completed earlier
  • Ask about any medications your child is taking
  • Ask about any allergies
  • Let you know about what to expect the day of the surgery
  • Answer any questions you may have

Pre-Assessment Clinic

If you need to see the anesthesia doctor, you’ll have an appointment in the pre-assessment clinic about 2 weeks before the operation. You’ll find the clinic at C3, on the main floor of CHEO. Please register at the desk when you arrive. We offer services in French and English. We have translation services available if you speak another language, but your doctor’s office will need to call us ahead of time to make these arrangements.

What you need to bring to the clinic:

  • Your child’s most recent health card
  • Proof of your address (like a drivers’ license)
  • Medical insurance information (if needed)
  • Your child’s immunization record
  • A list of medications, homeopathic or herbal remedies and dietary supplements your child is taking.

What will happen during the appointment?

First, you will meet the nurse. The nurse will:

  • Ask you questions about your child’s health
  • Weigh your child
  • Check your child’s heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen level
  • Let you know what to expect on the day of the procedure or operation.

Then, you will meet the anesthesia doctor. The doctor will:

  • Examine your child and explain what happens in the operating room
  • Explain how your child will go to sleep and what medications will be used to keep your child comfortable
  • Discuss whether your child needs medicine to relax before the operation.

The doctor you meet in the Pre-assessment Clinic may not be the anesthesia doctor on the day of the operation.

The doctor may decide your child needs tests like blood tests or x-rays before surgery. We’ll give you the forms for any tests at the time of your visit. If your child needs these tests, your visit to CHEO will be longer. During your visit, a research assistant may speak with you about taking part in research to improve surgical care.

Giving Consent

Giving consent for surgery 

It’s important that you understand the risks and benefits of the surgery, so that you can give an informed consent.

Before you sign the consent for surgery, the doctor will explain:

  • What the surgery is
  • Why it is needed
  • Why it will help your child (benefits)
  • What problems could happen (risks)
  • About any other ways to treat the problem

Learning more about your child's surgery

If you know what to expect, you will be better able to help your child or teen.

Talking about anesthesia

Click here to learn about coping mechanisms

Falling asleep for surgery


It’s important to prepare children and youth for the anesthetic.

Explain that your child or teen will:

  • Get medicine to help her fall into a deep sleep before the surgery
  • Breathe the medicine in through a mask or get it through an IV (a soft tube placed in a vein in the hand or arm). We may use numbing cream on the skin before starting an IV.
  • Be in a special sleep during the surgery, but doctors and nurses will take care of him the whole time.
  • Not feel, see or hear anything during the operation.

Talking about surgery

Knowing what to expect on the day of surgery will help your child or teen cope. Make sure to:

  • Tell the truth about what will happen. This helps your child or teen trust you and the hospital staff. The truth is often less scary than what children are actually thinking.
  • Ask questions and let your child tell you what he knows. This is a good way to find out what he is thinking, so you can correct any misunderstandings.

These guidelines are based on age, and will help you prepare your child or teen for surgery.

Babies (under 12 months)

Your baby will be comforted by familiar objects and people. Bring along comfort items like pacifiers, favourite toys or blankets. After surgery, babies who are not breastfeeding are more likely to drink from a familiar bottle nipple or sippy cup, so bring empty ones with you to use after surgery. Let the surgical team know how your baby may react to being away from you.

Talking to Toddlers (1-3 years)

Prepare your child the day before surgery with a simple explanation, like, "We are going to the hospital tomorrow so the doctor can fix the bump on your tummy". Try to give your toddler a little control by offering realistic choices: "Which toy would you like to bring?" "Should we bring the blue or the red cup?"

Toddlers may react to changes in their routine. On the day of the surgery, you can help by:

  • Rocking and holding your child.
  • Talking calmly and gently.
  • Distracting your child with toys or books.
  • Explaining what will happen just a little ahead of time. ("The nurse is going to take your temperature now, you need to hold very still").
  • Explaining that the surgical team is there to help her get better.

Talking to Preschool children (3-6 years)

Preschool children may not fully understand why surgery is needed; some children believe they are being punished.

You can help by:

  • Talking about the surgery 2-3 days ahead of time using a calm and relaxed voice
  • Talking about the hospital and explaining that it is a safe place and the staff are there to help
  • Using play to help your child understand the surgery (toy medical kits or books)
  • Avoiding bribes or threats

For example: " On Thursday we’ll be going to CHEO to have tiny tubes put in your ears to help prevent all those ear infections you’ve been getting. You’ll get some sleep medicine so you’ll be in a really deep sleep while the doctor puts the tubes in. You’ll wake up in a wake up room where nurses will be there to take care of you. We’ll be able to see you soon after you wake up."

Talking to School aged children (6-12 years)

School aged children have a basic understanding of how their bodies work. Start preparing your child a week or more ahead of time. They need time to ask questions and talk about their feelings.

You can help by:

  • Encouraging your child to ask questions and express feelings. It’s OK to feel angry or afraid.
  • Preparing your child for any stitches or bandages they will see after the surgery.
  • Avoiding bribes or threats.

Talking to Youth (12-18 years)

Youth are more independent and should become involved in their health care. They may ask for detailed explanations. They are often worried about privacy. You can help by:

  • Being honest. Your teen has a right to know about everything that will happen.
  • Encouraging your teen to ask questions of you or hospital staff. It may help to write out questions for the doctor or nurse ahead of time.
  • Giving space so your teen can speak to the doctor or nurse alone.
  • Reminding your teen that it’s OK to feel angry or worried.


Visit the Teen page.

Confirming surgery time

We will call you 1-2 days before surgery to confirm what time you should arrive at CHEO. If we do not call you by 8:00 pm the evening before your child’s surgery, please call CHEO’s Admitting Department:
613-737-7600, extension 2310, before 11:00 p.m.

What if my child or teen is sick before surgery?

Call your surgeon’s office if your child has been in contact with these illnesses in the 3 weeks before surgery:

  • Measles, Mumps or Chicken Pox
  • Whooping Cough
  • Scarlet Fever
  • TB (tuberculosis)

Contact your surgeon’s office if your child:

  • Has a cold or cough with mucous (and doesn’t feel like eating or is very tired)
  • Is wheezing
  • Has a fever
  • Is vomiting or has diarrhea
  • Has any contagious disease, like ‘pink-eye’, chicken pox, mumps, measles, tuberculosis (TB), whooping cough or scarlet fever (call your surgeon as soon as possible).

Between 4:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. the evening before surgery

If you can’t reach your surgeon:

  • Call Admitting at 613-737-7600 extension 2310 and tell them your child or teen is ill.

We will have to cancel surgery and re-schedule it later if your child has any of the illnesses listed above. If your child has mild cold symptoms, but no fever, we may ask you to come to Day Care Surgery in the morning to have your child assessed by the anesthesiologist to decide if we will go ahead with the surgery.

After 11:00 pm the evening before surgery:

  • Call Day Care Surgery 613-737-2346 and leave a message. Be sure to include your child’s name, date of surgery, surgeon’s name and the illness (for example, a cold or fever).
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