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Your Child's Recovery from Surgery

This information is designed to help family members learn about pediatric recovery from surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. You will find information about how children and teenagers commonly react or behave following surgery and anesthesia. This information is general and is not specific to every child who has surgery.

Recovery Room Environment

The recovery room is a large open area that cares for all surgical patients immediately following surgery. Patients of all ages (infants through teenagers) are cared for immediately after surgery in this room.

Waking Up After Surgery

  • Most children or teenagers take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour to wake up after surgery. Time varies from patient to patient. Your child will probably be sleepy the first time you see him or her.
  • Waking up from anesthesia may bring about confusing feelings, especially for younger children. It is common for young children to be crying after surgery and they may not respond immediately to efforts to comfort them.
  • Sometimes surgery patients have an upset stomach or feel dizzy following anesthesia. These feelings will pass with time.
  • Children may complain of a sore throat following surgery. This is normal and usually lasts for a short time.
  • A patient’s breathing may sound different after surgery. This is caused by the throat muscles being very relaxed and the child still being sleepy. Breathing should sound normal once they are fully awake.

Will My Child Be in Pain?

Your child's anesthesiologist will discuss pain control options with you before surgery. Sometimes, pain medicine is given to the patient before he or she leaves the operating room, which means they may not be in discomfort when they wake up.

A child who is crying may not necessarily be in pain. Staff will assess your child for discomfort and will treat pain as quickly as possible. Crying may also be due to the child being in an unfamiliar environment.

Can I Visit My Child After Surgery?

Following surgery, children are the most comforted by having a familiar person with them. For this reason, our staff will make every effort to have you visit your child as soon as possible.

Ways to Help Your Child

  • You may be able to hold your young child in your lap. Holding your child or teenager’s hand and talking to them may help comfort and relax him or her.
  • Your infant may also be held and rocked. Pacifiers may also help comfort them.
  • You can help determine if your child is having pain. If you think your child is having pain but not expressing it to the staff, talk with your nurse.
  • You can ask your doctor or nurse questions about the surgery or how to care for your child after surgery.
  • You can bring your child a familiar comfort item, such as a stuffed animal or blanket. Older children or teenagers may find music from home comforting.
  • Encourage your child or teenager to verbalize his or her feelings to determine your child's level of comfort

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