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Preparing Your Child for Surgery

If your child has been scheduled for surgery, we want you to understand the process, and we also want your child to be as prepared for the experience as possible.

We want to share with you what pediatric healthcare professionals have learned over the years - that is, what you can do to prepare your child for surgery. By doing this, you will also help yourself move through many of the natural concerns all parents experience.

For guidance on how to prepare your child for surgery, just click on the age-appropriate Child Health Library topics. You will learn about what part of surgery may be most stressful for your child, the various ways to prepare your child - and his or her siblings - for the upcoming surgery, and the possible emotional reactions your child may express.

Pre-Admission Visits

You child has been scheduled for surgery. You want to tell him or her all about it, but you would like some professional help in explaining what will happen in the hospital. The following pre-admission visits led by members of our Child Life staff at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital will make it easier for you - and for your child.

What to expect for surgery. For ages preschool to adult.

Online pre-surgical tour. Just for kids!

The online pre-operative tour enables children - and you - to see and learn all about the Hospital in a friendly, non-threatening way.

Take a presurgical tour. Just for kids!

On-Site Hospital Tour

If your child is three years old or older, Child Life Specialists recommend that you and your child come to the Hospital for a special tour. You are invited to attend without your child if he or she is younger than three. These pre-operative tours enable children - and you - to see and learn all about the Hospital in a friendly, non-threatening way.

The tour starts with "medical play" during which a Child Life Specialist will encourage the children to see and play with some of the medical equipment they will experience, such as an oxygen mask or surgical mask. They will role play with this equipment, using dolls as "patients."

Next, the children and parents are taken on a tour of the Hospital and each step of the process will be explained in an age-appropriate manner for the young visitors. Although the children do not visit an operating room, they will visit the recovery room. The children get to meet staff and familiarize themselves with every area they'll see from the moment they arrive on the day of their hospitalization.

Both you and your child will have the opportunity to ask questions throughout the tour.

Teenagers are also encouraged to take a pre-operative tour, which will be geared to their age group.

Appointments for these tours are required. To arrange a special pre-operative tour, please call (212) 342-0688. Once you have registered, you will be sent a letter reminding you when and where to meet for the tour, a parking valet voucher (valet parking is available in front of the Hospital) and a bibliography of books that are appropriate for your child's age group and the kind of surgery he or she will be having.

The Night Before Surgery

A nurse will call you the night before surgery. During the call, she will tell you what time to arrive and what you need to bring, and she will answer any last minute questions you may have. The nurse will also will let you know at what time your child no longer can have any food or anything to drink.

During the call your nurse will do an assessment, asking you general health questions about your child, his or her immunization status and other routine questions.

If you think your child has developed any symptoms - particularly respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, sneezing, runny nose), please notify your doctor. If indicated, your child's surgery may have to be postponed.

The Day of Surgery

We request that you do not bring any of your other children to the hospital on the day of surgery. But do bring your child's favorite blanket, stuffed animal or perhaps a CD or tape recorder with music your child loves.

Valet parking service is available in front of the Hospital at Broadway and 166th Street.

Please go directly to the 4th floor. When you get off the elevator, you will see the receptionist who will review registration information with you.

You will then go to the waiting area where there are toys and games. A nurse will meet you and take you and your child to an exam room. There your child will change into a hospital gown and receive an identification bracelet, which will be worn until he or she is discharged from the Hospital. A limited number of lockers are available for personal items.

The nurse will conduct a brief examination, including taking your child's temperature and blood pressure, measuring height and weight, and listening to his or her heart through a stethoscope.

You and your child will then return to the play/waiting area. At some point, your surgeon will come and take you to a private area to speak with you and your child.

Pediatric Anesthesiologist

You will also meet with the pediatric anesthesiologist. Please let the anesthesiologist know if anyone in your family has had reactions to anesthesia. The anesthesiologist will discuss the way in which the anesthesia will be administered - either through a breathing mask (most common method) or intravenously.

Consent Form

You probably will already have signed a consent form in the surgeon's office. If not, then you will be required to sign one in the Hospital before the surgery.

Going into the Operating Room

In most cases, we encourage parents to accompany their child into the operating room where they can remain until the anesthesia takes effect. However, there may be situations where it is not advisable.

If you do plan to plan to go into the operating room with your child, you will need to put on a special cover-up that resembles a "space suit" over your clothing, as well as a cap, shoe covers and a surgical mask, which you will be given before you can enter the operating room. You will be able to stay with your child until the anesthesia has put him or her to sleep. At that point, you must leave the operating room and go to the parents' waiting room.

Following Surgery

Your surgeon will meet you in the parents' waiting room following the surgery.

Overnight Stay

After surgery, your child will either go to the recovery room or the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Before the surgery, you will be told which area. If your child goes to the recovery room, you will be notified when you can visit. Both parents may stay in the recovery room until your child is transferred to an inpatient room.

If your child goes to the ICU, you will be asked to wait on the 9th floor where the ICU is located. One parent is permitted to sleep overnight in a special pull-out chair in your child's room.

Day Surgery

If your child is going home the same day of surgery, you will be able to stay with him or her in the recovery room until he or she has recovered. Your child will then be moved to a short-stay recovery area. Once your child has recovered sufficiently from the anesthesia and can drink some liquids, he or she will be able to go home.

You will be given instructions about your child's diet, activities and medications. You will need to call for a follow-up appointment.

Online Access in Surgical Day Stay Area

The Hospital has set up phone lines in the 4th floor Surgical Day Stay area that you can use to connect to your Internet service provider while waiting for your child's procedure to be completed. You can use these to connect to your own provider if:

  • You have a laptop with a modem and a phone cable
  • Your Internet Service Provider has a local phone number (212, 718, 917, 646, or 347 area code) you can dial in to and you know that number

How to Connect

Connect your phone cable to the laptop's modem port. Connect the phone cable to one of the jacks in the Day Stay marked with a blue port.

Start your laptop. Since you are connecting from a new location, you'll need to either set up a new connection or change the phone number you dial out to on your current location. There are a number of ways to do this. These will vary according to the operating system on your laptop and how it is configured. We assume that each user will be able to configure the device themselves to make the connection.


The phone lines are set up to only allow local calls. This is why you need to know what local numbers your ISP offers in this area. You should get these numbers before coming to the Hospital. You cannot connect by using your laptop's network card. The local area network is for Hospital computers only.