Preparing Your Child for Surgery

A father sitting bedside playing games with his daughter as she sits up in a hospital bed.

We know having surgery can be stressful for you and your child. OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital has a team of specialists who will guide you every step of the way.

Important things to know as you prepare:

  • Take time to talk with your child about their surgery.
  • Our PREP clinic will answer your questions about anesthesia, pre-operative instructions and the surgery. Call 503-418-5303 for information.
  • Our child life specialists help you and your child cope with being in the hospital.
  • Follow instructions about eating and drinking before surgery to prevent serious issues.
  • Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you on the day of surgery to let you know what to expect.

Resources to get ready for your child’s surgery

Preparing for surgery can help you and your child feel less anxious. We’ve created resources to guide you:

A few days or weeks before surgery

We recommend that you:

Call your surgeon’s clinic if:

  • You need interpreter services.
  • Your child has special needs.
  • Your child has been exposed to a contagious illness in the three weeks before surgery.

Arrange child care for other children: Siblings cannot enter surgical areas or spend the night at the hospital.

Plan transportation: This is a good time to figure out how you’re going to get to and from the hospital. Give yourself extra travel time to make sure you arrive before the appointment time.

1-2 days before surgery

We will call you between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. with information about:

  • Arrival time
  • Eating and drinking rules

The day before surgery

  • Review the instructions for eating and drinking before surgery.
  • Call us if your child feels sick:
    • Before 4:30 p.m., call your surgeon’s clinic.
    • After 4:30 p.m., call 503-418-5600.
  • Remove all nail polish, jewelry and make-up from your child.
  • Remove contact lenses.
  • Have your child bathe or shower before going to bed. Dress your child in clean clothes or pajamas.

Eating and drinking guidelines

The food and drink restrictions are important for your child’s safety. Eating or drinking anything within the times below can put your child at risk during surgery.

Please take these instructions seriously. Not following these rules may result in delay and/or cancellation of the surgery.

STOP 8 hours before arrival time

  • All solid foods

STOP 6 hours before arrival time

  • Milk
  • Formula
  • Feeding tubes

STOP 4 hours before arrival time

  • Breast milk

STOP 2 hours before arrival time

Your child should not eat or drink anything 2 hours before arriving at the hospital. This includes:

  • Water
  • Pedialyte

Make sure to keep all food out of reach once your child can no longer eat. It's important to check the car and car seats before your child gets in.

What to pack for your child

  • A change of clothes. Pack a small bag with your child’s things if they’re staying the night.
  • A comfort item, like your child’s favorite toy or blanket.
  • An empty sippy cup or favorite cup.
  • Activities for the waiting room.

Information to bring

  • Medical insurance card.
  • Money for any insurance co-pay or deductible that your plan requires.
  • Legal paperwork for guardianship, if necessary.
  • List of your child's current health care providers, medications and dosages.

Day of surgery

Driving directions: Doernbecher is at 700 S.W. Campus Drive on Marquam Hill in Portland. Find driving directions.

Parking: Valet parking is available 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays at the OHSU Doernbecher lobby entrance next to the Eternal Flame. You may also park for free in the designated parking area for Doernbecher the day your child comes to the hospital and the day your child goes home.

Check in for surgery: Take the elevators to Doernbecher’s eighth floor, and check in at the maple leaf symbol desk.

Check in for a procedure: Take the elevators to Doernbecher’s seventh floor, and check in at the bear symbol desk.

Download our book

Our Preparing for Surgery book helps your child know what to expect, including:

  • Checking in
  • Getting ready for surgery
  • Meeting your doctors
  • Falling asleep
  • After surgery
The cover image of OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital's "Preparing for Your Surgery" book which shows a close-up of a child's hands playing with blocks.