Knowing what to expect when you come to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for surgery helps the process go smoothly and reduces stress. 

Before You Arrive 

Here are three things to remember before you arrive at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.  

  1. A nurse will call with instructions on when your child should stop eating and drinking. It's important to follow their instructions carefully. These steps help the surgery proceed on schedule and go smoothly. 
  2. A maximum of two people can accompany the patient on surgery day. They must be over 18, so no brothers or sisters under that age. 
  3. Be comfortable. Your child should wear comfortable clothes and bring something that will comfort and calm them, like a stuffed animal or a favorite blanket. They can also bring a favorite book or a tablet for entertainment. 

Arkansas Children's Hospital is big, but many people are happy to help you find your way around. After you've signed in, the first thing to look for is orange elevators near the main entrance. Ride the orange elevator up to the second floor.  

In the Waiting Area 

Before surgery, you'll be in the waiting area. You'll get a sign with your name, so you have a reserved spot to sit. You'll have paperwork to complete and begin meeting all the specialists who help make the surgeries the best they can be. All the details gathered before surgery help Arkansas Children's understand and meet your child's and family's needs during and after surgery.  

After the paperwork is complete and you’ve been admitted, a patient care technician will take basic measurements, like height and weight. Your child will receive hospital pajamas to wear during surgery. 

In the Pre-op Room 

In the pre-op room, you will meet your nurse, surgeon, anesthesiologist and possibly a child life specialist. Your child will change into their hospital pajamas, lie on the gurney (bed) that a surgery team member will use to transport them to the operating room and receive a wristband that summarizes important information about your child for their surgery team. You can stay with your child in the pre-op room to meet the surgery team and ask questions. 

Your Child’s Pediatric Surgery Team

  • A patient care technician will measure your child’s blood pressure and oxygen levels in the blood. (You might hear this referred to as “pulse ox.”)  
  • Your nurse will ask questions about how your child feels and their health.  
  • Your surgeon will talk about your surgery and answer questions. 
  • Your anesthesiologist will talk about anesthesia – a special medicine to help your child’s body rest and not feel anything during surgery. Your anesthesiologist will give the medicine through a mask or an intravenous tube. Your medical team will tell you how your child will receive anesthesia on the day of surgery.   
  • A child life specialist can translate complex medical terms and concepts into something your child can understand through various activities. These activities help reduce stress. 

Every member of your child's surgery team is trained and experienced in their field - surgery or anesthesia, for example - AND they are trained and experienced in the specific needs of pediatric patients. Surgeons undergo two additional years of training and practice to be certified to work with pediatric patients.  

The Operating Room (OR) 

An OR nurse will meet you in the pre-op room. When your child is moved into the OR, you'll return to the waiting area. Your child can bring their favorite comfort item to the surgery room, like their tablet or stuffed animal. You will get updates on the procedure.   

Bright lights and many machines fill the operating room. Once in the operating room, your child will be moved to another bed. Electrodes, a blood pressure cuff, and a pulse oximeter will provide essential information during the surgery. 

Next, they'll receive anesthesia medicine. Anesthesia makes sure they don't feel, see or hear anything during surgery. Anesthesia is delivered through a mask or an IV, depending on what is best for your child. If they get an anesthesia mask, the medicine will smell like cherry, strawberry, or bubble gum to comfort them. 

After the Surgery 

After the operation, your child will wake up in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU). Doctors, nurses, other patients and the machines that monitor them while they recover can make the PACU feel like a busy, noisy place. Your child will probably still be a little sleepy from the anesthesia, so they rest in the PACU before someone brings you to visit them. Nurses are nearby if you need anything. We will offer your child a Popsicle, a snack or something to drink. 

Depending on your child's surgery, they might continue recovering in a separate post-op room, which is similar to the pre-op room. They'll get to change back into their clothes. 

A nurse will provide instructions about what to expect while your child recovers.  

Some children stay the night at the hospital after their surgery. If your doctor or nurse decides an overnight stay is best, your child will go to the inpatient floor from PACU. Parents or caregivers are allowed to stay with the child in the hospital. There are activities and toys available for patients while they recover.  

Healing happens best in a place where you can rest. As soon as your child is ready, they'll be sent home. Arkansas Children's Hospital takes care of hundreds of kids every day. Their mission is to make your child better today and healthier tomorrow.