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Preparing Kids For A Hospital Stay

How to take the fear out of a trip to the hospital, especially if your child needs surgery

by: Sydney Loney

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very parent hopes their child will be healthy, but the reality is children get sick and sometimes need surgery, requiring an anesthetic. "We probably anesthetize 18,000 infants and children a year," says Dr. Larry Roy, chief of the Department of Anesthesia at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Children can need elective surgery for everything from heart issues to hernias–here's what you should know about your child's trip to the hospital.

Prepping for your child's hospital stay

If your child needs elective surgery, it's important to educate yourself as much as possible about the procedure. The more you know, the calmer you will be and the better able to comfort and reassure your child.

1. Get informed: The first step is to take advantage of all the resources the hospital has to offer. Some children's hospitals provide detailed information packages, as well as an opportunity to attend a pre-operative clinic with a member of the department of anesthesiology. Pre-op clinics give you access to additional information, as well as an opportunity to ask questions either in person, by phone or video conference.

2. Take a tour: Many hospitals also provide information on their websites about what to expect during your child's visit and what resources are available to you during your stay. Some even include virtual tours of the operating room. Accessing this information will help you feel more prepared and less overwhelmed on the day of your child's surgery.

3. Know the risks: It's also important to understand the risks involved, says Dr. Roy. When it comes to anesthetizing a child, there is a risk of cardiac arrest, brain injury and death, but that risk is very small. In 1972, there was approximately one anesthesia-related death in every 10,000 anesthetics, whereas now that rate may be as low as one death in 150,000 anesthetics. "The good news is it's a lot safer now, largely due to new drugs, new technology and better education," he says.

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