Going Home After Your Child's Surgery

One of the many questions parents often ask after their child has been wheeled into the recovery room is: "When can she go home?" The answer varies, depending on what type of surgery your child has had. Here's what you need to know when your child is discharged.

How long will my child stay?

Your surgeon will discuss your child's expected length of stay — including an estimated number of days — when you first meet during the preoperative visit, but if, after the surgery, you have questions about when your child is coming home, be sure to ask him.

If your child has had surgery that doesn't require her to stay overnight, she'll stay for a few hours following the procedure. Before they allow your child to go home, her healthcare team will make sure that:

  • She's fully awake
  • Her vital signs — heart rate, breathing rate, temperature and blood pressure — are normal
  • She can drink some liquids without becoming nauseated or vomiting
  • Pain is well managed and she's comfortable enough to go home

Even after uncomplicated surgery, some children will remain in the hospital overnight for observation, and to receive medications to help with pain or to prevent infection. If your child must stay overnight, your surgeon will examine him in the morning and determine if he may be discharged.

How long your child stays in the hospital after more extensive surgery is determined by the nature of the surgery, as well as her health. Some surgeries require an intensive care stay so that your child's healthcare team can monitor her closely before she's moved to a regular inpatient unit. Once your child is in a regular unit, the team will monitor her and provide immediate medical attention if complications occur. When your child's condition has improved enough and she's comfortable enough to go home, she'll be discharged.

If your child has any underlying medical conditions, his recovery time may be longer.

What you need to know about taking your child home

You should know what to expect once your child's surgeon has cleared him to go home. If your child is discharged within 24 hours after surgery, you may notice he:

  • Sleeps more than usual for the first day or two at home
  • Has some nausea and vomiting
  • May be a little unsteady when walking

These problems — which are usually related to the surgery, anesthesia or pain medications — should improve after 24 to 48 hours at home. If the symptoms persist beyond that, talk to your child's doctor right away.

After the surgeon has determined your child may be discharged, a nurse will discuss home care with you and provide you with written instructions on how to care for your child. Before you take your child home, make sure you understand:

  • Any treatments you need to provide for her, such as changing wound dressings or helping her do deep-breathing exercises
  • Any medications your child may need, such as antibiotics or pain medications; make sure you have any prescriptions you need
  • Any activity restrictions your child may have, and the length of time these restrictions are to be followed
  • When your child may have a bath or shower
  • When she may return to school or day care
  • Signs and symptoms of possible complications from your child's particular kind of surgery, and whom you should call if she experiences them
  • Whom you can call with any questions
  • When to return for a follow-up appointment

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