At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, we try to make sure that when your child wakes up from surgery, the first person he or she sees is you. Family plays a major role in helping children feel secure and comforted.
Your Child’s Surgery
Find out what questions to ask your child’s surgeon and what to expect on the day of the procedure.Learn More
When you see your child after surgery, it’s helpful to know what to expect and what kind of care he or she needs during the healing process.
In most cases, you are brought to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) to wait for your child. If your child is being admitted to the one of our intensive care units, such as the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) or Congenital Cardiovascular Care Unit (CCVCU), he or she is generally taken directly there after surgery, instead of recovering in the PACU.
Your child, still sleeping, is brought into the PACU by one of our anesthesiologists. He or she lets you know how the surgery went and what to expect as your child wakes up.
It can often take up to 40 minutes for a child to become alert. Please do not try to wake your child up. It is better if children come out of the anesthesia naturally and when they are ready. The stay in the PACU often lasts about two hours.
“Our pediatric anesthesiologists closely monitor your child during and after surgery. We ensure the right pain relief.”
Dr. Neil Patel, Pediatric Anesthesiologist
You might be surprised by the way your child looks after surgery. He or she might have a breathing tube, intravenous (IV) lines, and bandages on the area of the operation. This can be difficult for you to see, but please rest assured that our care team has done its utmost to assure your child’s safety during surgery.
When children begin to wake up after anesthesia, they often cry, especially younger children. They don’t know where they are and often are looking for you. This is normal, and most children don’t remember this feeling afterward. A loved one’s presence can be all your child needs to calm down. When possible, we allow parents to hold infants and small children in their arms as they wake up.
Our nursing staff monitors children until they are ready to go home from the hospital or move to a hospital room. If your child is being admitted to the hospital, he or she is transferred from the PACU as soon as a room is ready. If your child is going home after surgery, we first make sure your child’s pain is being managed properly and that he or she is not nauseous. Your child’s surgeon might want to monitor your child for a certain amount of time before going home—the timing of this is different for each child.
While in the PACU, your child’s anesthesiologist determines what kind of pain relief medication your child needs. This can be medicine that is delivered through an IV line or taken by mouth. The dosage of all pain medications is based on your child’s weight.
Depending on the type of pain relief given, your child might feel numb in the area that was operated on. This can be an odd sensation for a child, but let him or her know that it is normal and that the numbness helps to ease pain. We also have child life specialists on hand to help your child understand what’s going on and provide diversions during recovery.
After surgery, you receive anesthesia discharge instructions that outline what you can expect as your child recovers, as well as information on signs or symptoms that would require a phone call to the doctor.
Sometimes anesthesia can affect a child’s sleep cycle, but this usually only lasts one day. Children around the ages of 5 and 6 are most at risk of nausea and vomiting from anesthesia, so we give these children antinausea medicine.
If your child goes home the same day as the surgery, one of our nurses calls the next day to check in on you and your child. Please share any questions or concerns you have about your child’s recovery. If your child is admitted to the hospital, our nursing staff is available anytime and wants to hear your thoughts about your child’s recovery.
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