Hospital staffs well-versed in easing anxiety of surgical procedures on children

The Baltimore Sun

Reader Kayris wrote: "I found out today that my 2-year-old will most likely need eye surgery and an MRI before that. Any suggestions for making it easier for a child so young, and any suggestions to get ME through having to see my child under general anesthesia?"

I sent her question to Dr. Michael Crocetti, director of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. He wrote back some thoughts:

"Having surgery or a medical procedure that requires sedation can be scary and very anxiety-provoking for the child and parents," he wrote. "Fortunately, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff that specialize in pediatric sedation and anesthesia are experts at easing anxiety and going through each step of the process until you feel as comfortable as possible.

"Also, most pediatric centers decorate their rooms and procedure suites in a warm, family-friendly way."

Hospital staff, Crocetti says, usually take the age of the child as a cue for how they should work with the family. "Most 2-year-olds have anxiety around strangers and new environments, so for them it's all about surrounding them with familiar things - a special blanket, toy, book, etc.," Crocetti wrote.

And even though Mom and Dad may be extremely nervous about watching their child go through surgery (I would be!), Crocetti wrote that it's all the more important to keep your composure at a time like this. "Parents should try and appear calm and collected with their children, which I know can be tough, but children can sense your anxiety."

"Parents are usually allowed to go into the procedure area or operating room with the child. How far the parent goes is dependent on their comfort level and how calm and matter-of-fact they can keep themselves. Usually children are sedated in a gradual fashion with medications that first make them sleepy followed by stronger medications that put them fully asleep. The parents usually are asked to leave the room once the child is asleep."

The good thing, Crocetti wrote, is that kids really won't remember anything from the time they fall asleep until they wake back up after surgery.

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