Pediatric Surgery Recovery: What To Expect Post-Op

Every year, 450,000 children under the age of 18 get surgery in the United States. Kids can easily feel scared and overwhelmed by the surgical recovery process. This period of time might be one of the first moments of their life experiencing high levels of pain, discomfort, or weakness. 

To make this process a little more manageable for both parents and children alike, this article explores the typical healing journey and the best ways to make recovery as relaxing as possible.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Surgery?

Directly after surgery, kids will be placed in a recovery room to wait for the anesthesia to wear off. It takes around 45 minutes on average for children to recover from the general anesthesia from their surgery. Depending on the type of surgery and the success of the procedure, kids will either be discharged a few hours later or spend one night or more in the hospital for extra monitoring during recovery. 

The estimated recovery time for surgery completely depends on your child’s unique situation.  The invasiveness of the surgery, the unique medical background of your child, complications from the surgery, and the part of the body that the surgery was performed on can all play a role in the recovery time.

Recovery Symptoms To Look Out For

Even if your child’s surgery is seamlessly executed without any complications, the majority of patients in surgical recovery will experience some inevitable pain and irritation of the body. Some of the most common post-operative recovery symptoms that aren’t usually much of a cause for concern include: 

  • Pain or swelling in the surgical site
  • Mild constipation or gas buildup 
  • Nausea from pain medications or anesthesia 
  • Trouble falling asleep 

While the above symptoms are common, if you notice them worsening instead of getting better, it is important to speak with a medical professional. Furthermore, it is time to call the doctor when any of these more severe symptoms arise: 

  • High fever and flu symptoms 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • The inability to urinate
  • A surgical wound that looks infected, with excess drainage, odor, swelling, or redness
  • More severe or worsening pain

5 Ways To Console Children Through Recovery

Here are 5 tips to keep your child calm and relaxed through the surgical healing process: 

#1: Have Comforting Items Available

When your child comes home from the hospital after surgery, make sure to have comfortable items on hand. After spending time in the stressful and unfamiliar setting of the hospital and operating room, familiar items of comfort will help your child feel more relaxed and grounded. This might include their favorite blanket, stuffed animal, toy, pacifier, or pillow. 

#2: Give Children Hugs 

Sometimes all your child needs to feel better is the physical affection of a cuddle or hug. Hugging releases oxytocin in the brain, which plays a huge role in reducing stress and anxiety. Not only this, but oxytocin is even associated with stronger immune systems and wound healing as well. 

#3: Be Mindful Of Their Pain Levels

Some kids might have some trouble directly articulating if they are experiencing pain from their surgery. As a parent, it is important to encourage your child to express how they are feeling to ensure that they are receiving the proper dosage of pain medications. 

Depending on the age of your child, some might be too young to express this need, which is why paying attention to their body language is equally important. Signs of your child in pain include irritability, restlessness, crying and wincing, and frowning. 

#4: Have Entertainment Ready To Go

To distract your child from their pain and discomfort, it is helpful to have a variety of entertainment ready to go. Books, movies, television shows, songs, video games, and other types of multimedia content are all great ways to keep children focused on something more positive and fun, without having to exert too much physical effort.  

#5: Work With A Child Life Specialist

If you find yourself struggling to help your child cope with their recovery symptoms effectively, working with a child life specialist is a great way to get some ideas and professional support. Child life specialists are trained professionals in helping kids and their families navigate illness, hospitals, and the medical experience.

Austin Pediatric Surgery is In Your Corner

The recovery process can be a long and bumpy road, but with ample support and professional assistance from Austin Pediatric Surgery, your child will get back on their feet in no time

To receive the best post-op care for your child in Austin, look no further than our compassionate team today. Contact us today to learn more.

Preparing Yourself & Family For Your Child’s Surgery

There is no question that pediatric surgery can be an overwhelming experience for parents and families to cope with. Oftentimes, parents are just as nervous, if not more nervous, than the child themselves. 

While coping with anxiety, intense emotions, and stress leading up to the surgery date is completely valid and normal, preparing yourself and your child for surgery will help the stress become more manageable.

8 Tips For Seamless Pediatric Surgery Preparation

The more that you prepare for the details of your child’s surgery, the more confident and calm your entire family will feel. 8 simple ways to best prepare yourself and family for an impending surgery include:

#1: Don’t Keep Your Child in The Dark

As a parent, it is only natural to want to protect your child from the scarier parts of life. While putting off the conversation surrounding an upcoming surgery might be tempting, the unknown can actually increase a child’s anxiety more in the long-run. Since children have vivid imaginations, it is easy for them to picture a surgery as a much scarier event than it really is. 

Sitting down with your child and calmly explaining the reason behind their upcoming surgery and hospital stay offers them the opportunity to ask questions, share their fears, and receive the proper reassurance and guidance that everything will be okay. 

#2: Work With a Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are a wonderful resource to capitalize on in a hospital setting. As trained pediatric professionals, child life specialists have the expertise to help children and families better cope with a medical setting. In general, child life specialists can help with many facets of the surgery experience, including: 

  • Explaining your child’s surgery in an age-appropriate manner that avoids any scary words or images
  • Providing emotional support to your child and family
  • Offering pointers for how you can approach your child about their upcoming surgery

#3: Prioritize Your Personal Needs As Much As Your Child’s Needs

At the end of the day, the better your mental and physical wellbeing is taken care of as a parent, the better equipped you will be to take care of your children’s needs and concerns. If all of the tasks on your plate feel like too much to handle, leaning on friends and family for support is an excellent tool. 

While it is in a parent’s nature to put a child’s needs above all else, remember that your own needs are essential as well. 

#4: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

When it comes to your child’s upcoming surgery, knowledge is power. Discussing any and all questions or concerns with your child’s surgeons and anesthesiologists prior to the procedure will ease your mind and keep you from jumping to any unnecessary conclusions. Not only this, but it will better equip you with answers that you can relay to your child if they have similar questions. 

Every surgery offers a different set of parameters of the hospital stay time, length of the procedure, and preoperative and postoperative instructions. Helpful questions to ask your child’s doctors include topics related to:

  • How many nights or hours the child can expect to stay in the hospital
  • The type of anesthesia method that will be used
  • What the recovery and pain-management process should look like after surgery
  • Instructions that the child should follow in the days or hours leading up to a successful surgery
  • What exactly the surgery will resolve and how it will benefit your child’s health outcomes

#5: Familiarize Your Child with Medical and Hospital Settings

A hospital setting doesn’t have to be an unknown and intimidating place. Familiarizing your children with what happens at a hospital, what to expect, and how certain medical equipment works will show children that there is nothing to be afraid of in a medical setting.

Easy ways to bring greater awareness of medical and hospital-related topics include:

  • Playing with medical-themed toys such as fake stethoscopes and bandages
  • Reading children’s books that take place at a hospital or involve a child getting surgery
  • Taking your child on a facility tour of the hospital their surgery will take place in. This familiarizes the both of you with the ins and outs of the hospital environment. 

#6: Always Bring a Piece of Home to the Hospital

No matter the child’s age, it can feel overwhelming to navigate the newness of the medical tools and equipment that accompany a hospital environment. Bringing a small, coveted memento to comfort your child is a surefire way to make a hospital room look, feel, and even smell a little more like home. 

Easy items to bring that elicit familiarity and comfort include blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and toys. 

#7: Follow All Preoperative Instructions the Day Before The Surgery

To prepare your child to have the most successful surgery outcome possible, it is crucial to pay close attention to all of the preoperative instructions that your child’s doctor requires. This ensures that your child is taken care of both physically and emotionally. 

#8: Show Confidence in Your Child’s Doctors and Surgery

Let’s face it: kids are incredibly smart at all ages, and can easily pick up on nonverbal cues, body language, and the emotional states of those around them. Because of this, it is important as a parent to carry yourself in a confident and calm manner when discussing their surgical procedure. Assuring them that you are very confident in the abilities of their doctors, nurses, and medical staff will ensure that they feel secure as well.

Work With the Best Pediatric Surgeons in Austin Today

All in all, implementing these simple tactics will make your child’s surgery a more relaxing experience for the entire family. With over 20 years of experience as a pediatric surgery center, our capable team of medical professionals at Austin Pediatric Surgery are committed to creating as comfortable of a surgical experience as possible for both patients and their families.

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.