Types of pediatric surgery

What Kind of Surgery is My Child Having?

If your child needs surgery, you may be wondering if the procedure requires an overnight stay or if he can go home the same day. Will the surgery require a large incision or will it be minimally invasive? 

Surgery can be classified into types based on the level of care needed and the procedure’s tools and techniques. Some of the common terms you may hear from your pediatric surgeon include:

  • Day surgery
  • Inpatient surgery
  • Minimally invasive procedures
  • Emergency operations

At Austin Pediatric Surgery, we’re here to help you understand the differences and similarities between various types of surgery.

Day Surgery

Day surgery is also known as outpatient or ambulatory surgery. When your child is scheduled for day surgery, he or she will not be required to stay overnight in the hospital. Day surgery is recommended when the procedure cannot be completed in a doctor’s office, but it’s not so intensive that it requires the patient to stay in the hospital overnight for follow-up. 

Day pediatric surgery allows parents to spend more time with their children before and after the procedure. The OR team and anesthesiologists will meet with you in the pre-op or pre-procedure room to discuss how anesthesia will be administered. 

To decrease anxiety, many children can begin sedation by inhaling anesthetic gases. Once they fall asleep, an IV is inserted and surgery can begin.

After the surgery, parents are welcome to join their child during the early recovery period to give their child support as the anesthesia wears off.

Common pediatric procedures performed during day surgery often include:

Inpatient Surgery

Inpatient pediatric surgery is scheduled when the child needs more post-op care and monitoring by the surgical team. Because extra care is needed, your child will have to stay at least one night in the hospital. The total length of stay depends on the specific surgery or procedure.

Most of the pre-op care is similar to day or outpatient surgery, and the goal is still to let parents spend as much time with their child as possible.  But since your child will be spending at least one night away from home, parents must do more planning and preparation in advance of the procedure.

Pediatric procedures that may require an inpatient stay include:


Minimally Invasive Surgery

Minimally invasive pediatric surgery uses special instruments to better visualize the operation site, and this type of surgery allows for smaller incisions. These procedures have faster recovery times, less pain, require fewer narcotics, and result in reduced scarring.

Some procedures and surgeries that use minimally invasive techniques include:


Emergency Surgery

Pediatric patients account for 25% of the Emergency Department visits in the U.S. 

ER doctors are prepared to quickly respond if an injury or illness poses an immediate risk to the child’s life or long-term health.

For ER surgeries that are not the result of pediatric trauma or injury, the most common emergency procedures are appendicitis, hernia, and intestinal obstruction. Many of these non-trauma-related emergency surgeries are for neonatal fetal diagnoses.

Let Us Answer Your Questions

The different classifications of surgery are not mutually exclusive. Your child may need emergency surgery, but the recommended surgical technique might be minimally invasive. Some surgeries do not have to be scheduled right away but will require one or more days in the hospital.

If your child needs surgery, it’s likely you’re feeling scared, stressed, and confused. Austin Pediatric Surgery has cared for Central Texas’s infants and children for over 20 years, and our staff includes the best pediatric surgeons in the area. Let us reassure you by providing the information you need to be strong for your child.  

Contact us today to learn more.

Mother talking to daughter about pediatric surgery

How to Talk to Your Child About Surgery

Knowing that your child must undergo surgery is stressful for the entire family. And because your child looks to you to make them feel less fearful about the experience, you must, as a parent, do all you can to prepare for what could be a tough conversation. 

Prepare Yourself Before You Talk to Your Child About Surgery

The unknown is much more frightening than facing the facts about an unpleasant topic. Before you tell your child about the surgery, ask your surgical team questions about your child’s condition and what the surgery will involve before, during, and after the procedure. Arming yourself with knowledge will make it much easier to talk to your child and make them feel like you’re not hiding anything.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Surgical Team

While our surgical staff will do their best to prepare and inform you prior to the surgery, it’s always good to have a few questions ready if needed. We recommend asking:

  • Who is the attending physician and who will be in charge of the operation?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • Where will I be during the operation and when will I be able to see my child?
  • How will pain be managed during the operation?
  • What should I know about anesthesia?
  • How long will my child be in the hospital?
  • Are there detailed instructions for how to care for my child after the operation?
  • How will pain be managed post-op?
  • Will my child need rehabilitation or therapy?
  • How long will it be before my child can return to normal activities?

Knowing the answers to important questions can help relieve your own anxiety, and it’s crucial that your child see that you are calm when you talk to them about the surgery. Most children can pick up on their parents’ emotional states, and if you can project confidence and reassurance, it will put your child at ease.

Talking to Children About Surgery

Your child’s ability to understand his upcoming surgery will depend on his age. Toddlers and pre-school children should be not addressed in the same way as elementary school-aged children or teenagers. 

Infants Up to 12 Months

Your infant will not understand any language-based explanation about the surgery, but they may become stressed by a change in routine and if they sense their parents are anxious. Stay calm and cheerful while you show them picture books about hospitals, and then have them meet their doctors so they won’t be unfamiliar to them. Try to stay calm and your infant will likely pick up on those positive cues. 

Toddlers 1-3 Years

When you explain the surgery, tell your toddler that the doctor will make “x” better. You don’t need to go into detail or use words that will cause confusion. 

Preschool 3-5 Years

Begin talking about the surgery a number of days before the date. A child this age can handle more information about the procedure and why it’s happening, but reassure them that the doctors are there to help them feel comfortable and any pain will be minimal and won’t last for long. 

It’s important to let your preschooler know that they haven’t done anything wrong and that their surgery isn’t punishment. Reiterate how the surgery will make them feel so much better in the long run!

School-Age 6-12 Years

Start talking to your school-age child a few weeks before the surgery. You can explain in more detail why the surgery is necessary and emphasize the benefits of having the procedure. 

Maintain an open dialogue with your child so that they feel it’s okay to ask you questions and that they know they’ll get honest answers. Because they may feel out of control, let them make choices when it’s appropriate. Encourage creative expression to help them deal with the stress and anxiety they may be feeling.


Your teen wants their parents to be truthful. Make sure you speak honestly and answer questions directly. Respect their need for privacy and try to understand their concerns about how the surgery will affect their appearance, image, and social life. 

Let your teen take some control about planning the conditions surrounding their surgery. but be wary of letting them do his own internet research! Instead, ask them to come up with a list of questions to ask the surgical team.

Find a Pediatric Surgery Center That Will Ease Your Worries

At Austin Pediatric Surgery, we’ve been caring for infants, children, and adolescents for more than 20 years. We’re home to the best pediatric surgeons in the Austin area and use the most advanced surgical technologies and minimally invasive techniques. 

Learn more about the conditions we treat and how we can make your experience more comfortable, and if you have questions, please feel free to contact us any time.

How to Help Your Child Fast Before Pediatric Surgery

Helping your child to fast before pediatric surgery is just one of the ways you’ll need to prepare them for the procedure. At Austin Pediatric Surgery, we’re here to help parents understand why fasting is so important, and learn some ways to comfort your child during this stressful time.

Why Fasting is Important Before Surgery

Have you ever had the feeling that something “went down the wrong pipe” after swallowing? That’s called aspiration – when something enters the airways or the lungs accidentally. Fasting is necessary prior to surgery with general anesthesia to avoid aspirating vomit, and which is why food is restricted for several hours before the operation. 

When we’re awake and conscious, we can react to aspiration by coughing or gagging to clear the obstruction. But under general anesthesia, muscles are paralyzed and the patient can’t take action to clear the airways. Because there’s also an endotracheal tube placed in the throat, there’s an even greater risk that instead of expelling the vomit, it could travel into the lungs.

Nausea is also a common occurrence after surgery, and the best way to prevent postoperative vomiting is to have an empty stomach prior to receiving anesthesia.

Fasting Rules Prior to Pediatric Surgery

It’s important to follow the specific guidelines laid out by your pediatric surgeon, but the general rules for fasting prior to pediatric surgery are as follows:

  • Solid food (including rice cereal and baby food) may be eaten up until 8 hours before surgery.
  • You can give your baby infant formula up to 6 hours before surgery, and breast milk up to 4 hours prior.
  • Your infant or older child can have clear liquids up to 2 hours before surgery. Clear liquids include water, apple juice, popsicles, or a prepared electrolyte beverage. Milk and formula are not clear liquids.
  • Remember to inform your doctor about your child’s regular medications to find out which may be taken prior to anesthesia, and don’t forget to mention any herbal or natural medicines you regularly give your child.

How to Explain Fasting and Anesthesia to your Child

Keep your child’s level of comprehension and maturity in mind when talking about the surgery and how to prepare for it, but don’t lie or try to hide information. You may be worried about frightening your child, but it’s scarier not knowing what is going to happen. It’s better that you have control of the narrative and are able to present it in a way that will keep fears to a minimum.

For example, when trying to explain what will happen during anesthesia, you could tell your child they will take a short nap. Instead of using scary words like “shot” and “pain,” try to soften your language with substitutes like “pinch” and “sore.”

When explaining fasting, you could let an older child know that it’s easier for the doctors to do their job when all food is completely digested or that they will feel better after the surgery if they have an empty stomach.

Younger children may not need an explanation. Just give them a healthy meal prior to the 8-hour deadline, and prepare to feed them formula, breast milk, or clear liquids within the allowed time frames.

Talk to your toddler 2-3 days ahead, while older children can have more of an advanced warning – 5 or 6 days. However, you know your child best and can make adjustments based on what you know about their tendency to feel anxious or worry.

It’s so important that, as a parent, you remain calm since your child will take cues from you. Listen to their concerns and be honest, but gentle. Be sure to let them know that the surgical team will do everything they can to make them safe and comfortable.

Ultimately, you know your child best. Some children benefit from touring the hospital or medical facility, while others may do best without thinking too much about the big day. Talk to your child to determine their level of anxiety, and provide as much information as needed to help them be ready for the big day.

Find a Pediatric Surgery Center in Austin, Texas

We know you’re concerned about your child’s health and safety. That’s why it’s important you choose a pediatric surgery center that has a reputation for providing the best care for infants, children, and adolescents.

At Austin Pediatric Surgery, our surgical specialists are trained and experienced in using the most advanced techniques and minimally invasive technologies and have been helping and healing children in the community for more than 20 years. Please contact us to learn more about how we can help reduce your stress and make the surgical experience safe and comfortable for your child and your family.