Preparing your child for surgery

If your child is scheduled for surgery, this guide will tell you what you need to know getting ready.

Before your child's surgery

Visit with surgeon

  • You already may have met with your surgeon. If not, you will meet with someone from your surgeon's team. They will talk with you about your child's medical condition and the procedure.

History and physical

  • A history and physical needs to be done within 30 days of your child's surgery. It can be done at your child's doctor's office or the surgeon's clinic. If the physical will not be done in the surgeon's clinic, talk with the surgeon's office staff about where and when this should be done.

Other lab work or x-ray tests

  • Your child's surgeon will tell you if your child needs any other labs or x-ray tests before surgery and when those will be done.

Other things to do

  • If your child's surgeon asked you to do anything else before or after surgery, please make sure you have done so. Example: give your child an enema, pick up medicines or other equipment, tell your child's school/teacher about the surgery or recovery.

Compass app

  • Please download the Compass App before your child's surgery.
  • Children's Compass will guide you to hospital departments, clinics and points of interest such as dining options, ATMs, and much more.

MyChart enrollment

  • Please enroll before your child's surgery.
  • Enrollment in MyChart allows you to:
    • View medical history, including immunizations, allergies and medications
    • View most outpatient lab results online
    • Send secure messages to your provider
    • Request prescription renewals online
    • Track your child's growth
  • Register for MyChart

Printable teaching sheet: Getting ready for surgery | En Español

Talking with your child before surgery

Depending upon your child's age, it's important that you talk to them about the experience, sometimes starting well in advance. You can also ease your child's stay by taking advantage of one of our pre-admission tours and by packing the right things.

Pre-op phone call

A nurse will call you 1 to 3 days before your child's surgery. The nurse will review your child's health history, final instructions and any possible changes. It is very important to follow these instructions:

  • What time you need to be at the hospital. This will most likely be 1.5 to 2 hours before surgery. It takes time for staff to get your child ready for surgery.
  • What medicines your child can take the day of surgery.
  • What your child can eat and drink the day before surgery.
  • When your child has to stop eating and drinking. If you have not heard from a nurse by the day before surgery, please call the Pre-op Clinic at 414-266-2762. Leave a message with your child's name, date of surgery, and your phone number. A nurse will return your call as soon as possible.
  • If your child becomes sick, or symptoms worsen prior to procedure, please call the Pre-op call center at 414-266-2762.

After your call is complete, your letter with instructions will be added to your MyChart. Please refer to the letter tab within the main menu in MyChart to view.

When to stop eating and drinking

  • Solid food (by mouth or G-tube) -- Stop eight hours before arriving to the hospital
  • Formula or fortified breast milk (by mouth or G-tube) -- Stop six hours before arriving to the hospital
  • Breast milk (by mouth or G-tube) -- Stop four hours before arriving to the hospital
  • Clear liquids (by mouth or G-tube) -- Stop two hours before arriving to the hospital
  • Any J-tube feeds -- Stop two hours before arriving to the hospital

It's important that you understand the eating and drinking restrictions for your child.

Printable teaching sheet: Nothing by mouth or tube instructions |  En Español

Pre-op wash with Chlorhexidine Gluconate (CHG)® Cloths

Why do I need to wash my child before surgery?

Carefully wipe your child the night before surgery with these pre-op cloths to help reduce the number of germs on your child's skin. Skin with less germs means less infections after surgery. Your child will also be washed by the hospital staff just before going into surgery. Do not use these cloths if your child has an allergy or is sensitive to chlorhexidine, has burns, rashes, eczema, open wounds or dressings that can not be removed. Your child should not shave any body hair before surgery as this can also increase the chance of infection.

How do I wash my child with the pre-op cloths?

  • Washing needs to be done on the night before surgery.
  • All jewelry must be removed such as earrings, necklaces and bracelets. It needs to be kept off until after the surgery. Talk with the nurse if you are worried about taking any jewelry off for cultural or religious reasons.
  • Clean and trim your child's fingernails and toenails. Remove any nail polish.
  • Wash your child first with regular soap and shampoo. Rinse and dry well.
  • Take the pre-op cloths and wipe them on the surgical area. Use all the clothes and wipe the area for 3 minutes. Let the skin dry. Do not rinse the area with water unless a rash or redness starts.
  • Do not use them on the face, ears, eyes, nose, mouth, or the private/genital area. Rinse these areas with lots of clean, warm water if the cloths do touch them as they may become red and irritated.
  • Do not use any baby oil or lotions. These products may attract dirt to the skin.
  • Dress your child in clean, washed clothes or pajamas after each wash.
  • Wash any comfort items such as a blanket or stuffed toy that may be coming along with your child to the hospital.
  • Do not flush the cloths down the toilet. Throw them away in the trash.

Printable teaching sheet: Pre-op wash | En Español

Printable teaching sheet: Chlorhexidine Gluconate (CHG) ® Cloths |  En Español

Printable teaching sheet: Surgical Site Infections (SSIs) |  En Español

What should you bring?

The choice of what to bring from home can make a big difference for your child. Please bring the following:

  • Special toy or blanket
  • Sippy cup or bottle used at home (please give to the nurse in pre-op)
  • Identification card
  • Something to read and some snacks for while you are in the waiting area
  • Just in case your stay is longer than you expect, please pack a bag with extra clothes for both you and your child
  • Even if you are planning on going home the same day, your child will need to rest the day of surgery to have a full recovery. Please keep this in mind if there are other siblings at home.
Wisconsin's highest-rated pediatric surgical center

Recognized by the American College of Surgeons, our Level I verification represents the highest level of recognition for hospitals that perform complex surgical procedures in newborns and children.