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Child & Teen Health

There may be few things scarier to a parent than the thought of their child going, “under the knife”. Undergoing surgery can be a new and worrisome experience for adults but even more so for a child. Concerns surrounding anesthesia, recovery time and the child’s overall reaction to the ordeal can weigh heavily on a parent. But, knowing what to expect before and after surgery can help reassure both you and your child.

By Eren Cooper
The Surgi Centre

Common conditions requiring surgery in children

Hirschsprung – Hirschsprung Disease is caused by a birth defect when some of the nerve cells normally found in the intestine wall do not form properly. The missing nerve cells prevent normal bowel movements from passing through the intestines creating an obstruction. Hirschsprung Disease occurs in one in 5,000 births and is usually diagnosed in infancy but some cases are not diagnosed until later into childhood. When diagnosed later, the child is often plagued with digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. Surgery is almost always necessary to correct the portion of the intestine that lacks normal cells.

Hernias – Hernia repair is one of the most common types of childhood surgeries performed. In adults, hernias occur when a small part of an organ or tissue pokes through a weak area of muscle causing a bulge. In infants, hernias can be caused when a part of the intestine or tissue pushes through small opening in their bodies that have not closed up yet. Of the types of hernias, inguinal and umbilical are the most common. Inguinal hernias occur in the groin and are most common in boys. Umbilical hernias occur around the belly-button through which the small intestine or some abdominal membrane protrudes. Hernias are very painful and must be treated with surgery.

Appendicitis – The appendix’s function is still not fully known. It appears to not be a non-essential organ but when it becomes inflamed, surgery must be performed right away. Appendicitis is especially common in children so pediatric appendectomies are widely performed. Surgeons must work quickly to prevent the appendix from bursting spreading infection throughout the abdomen.

Tonsillitis – It is not uncommon for children to have enlarged tonsils without any symptoms at all. Enflamed tonsils in children tend to shrink on their own over time. However, Tonsillitis are performed when there are recurrent episodes of tonsillitis or strep throat infections. Often, those symptoms are accompanied by snoring and sleep apnea. The surgery usually takes about twenty minutes.

Preparing your child for surgery

Preparing your child as much as possible before their surgery is essential in helping to reduce stress and fear.

  • Begin talking to your child, at their age level, up to a week before the surgery. Increase the length and the intensity of the talk as the surgery gets closer.
  • Provide simple, honest answers to your child’s questions.
  • Remain calm and confident. Be careful not to let your child pick up on any fear or stress you may have.
  • Read books that explain what your child will see at the hospital and who he or she will meet there.
  • Let your child know that she will be in a special sleep during surgery and will not feel any pain.
  •  Focus on the part of the body the doctor will be operating onand why. Be sure to use calming words like “fix”, “repair” and “help”. Reassure them that they will feel much better once the surgery is complete.

Helping your child recover

After surgery your child will require a lot of comfort. Physical touch is important to recovery so, if possible, gently cuddle and stroke your child. While in the hospital, entertain and distract them with their favorite movies, games and stuffed animals. Explain that the doctors and nurses must ensure that they are well before they can go home. Once your child is permitted to leave the hospital, be sure to follow doctor’s orders precisely by properly tending to the incision site, administering the correct dosage of medicine and encouraging your child to both rest and move around at the appropriate times.

Consult your child’s doctor immediately if there is any excessive bleeding, inability to use the bathroom, fever, or signs of infection.

Article Sources:

Types of surgery for children, www.moberlyregionalmedicalcenter.com; www.uofmchildrenshospital.org; Inguinal Hernia Repair Surgery, www.chp.edu; Hirschsprung Disease, www.cincinatichildrens.org; standfordchildrens.org; Preparing for Surgery, Most common surgeries for kids, www.surgical kidz.wikispaces.com ; www.childrenshospital.vanderbilt.org; Hernias, www.kidshealth.org ; Helping your child cope with pain after surgery, www.chop.edu .