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Having Surgery: What to Expect

When your child has been scheduled for surgery, our compassionate care team of pediatric surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses will help you understand the upcoming procedure and guide you through the entire process.

Our resources — created specifically for families — connect you with the information you need the most:

  • Our handy parent's guide walks you through preparation for your child's surgery.
  • For questions concerning insurance, visit Insurance and Billing.
  • If you have additional questions, please contact your surgical scheduler. 

Getting Ready for Your Child's Surgery

Learn about the experience of having surgery at Children's National as told through the voice of a child.

Cómo prepararse para la cirugía de su hijo/a

Este video, proporcionado en español, ayudará a usted y a su familia a prepararse para la cirugía en Children's National. Estamos aquí para ayudarles a comprender la intervención y guiarlos en el proceso.

Day of Surgery Fasting Rules

For your child's health and safety during surgery, your child must stop eating or drinking according to the rules below. In general, your child should stop taking: 

  • Clear liquids 1 hour before arrival to the hospital. These include water and clear soda, such as Sprite; popsicles (no pulp, no milk); apple juice (pulp-free); sports drinks, such as Gatorade; or gelatin without fruit, such as Jell-O. 
  • Breast milk 3 hours before arrival to the hospital
  • Formula or milk 5 hours before arrival to the hospital
  • All other foods 7 hours before arrival to the hospital

Medications may be taken with a sip of water on the morning of surgery as directed by your physician. Bring a list of medications and the amount that your child takes.

Please note: While we would never advise their use, on the day of surgery patients should not smoke, drink alcohol or use recreational drugs. These can cause your surgery to be unsafe and cancelled.

If eating and drinking guidelines are not followed, your child's surgery will be delayed or cancelled for your child's safety.

To learn how to prepare your child, and his or her siblings, emotionally for surgery, visit Talking to Your Child.

How to Help Prepare Your Child for Surgery

Having surgery can be a frightening experience for a child. The more comfortable and prepared you are for this experience, the more comfortable your child will be. The following are some suggestions on how to prepare your child for surgery.

Infants (0-12 months)

Toddlers (1-3 years)

Preschoolers (2-5 years)

School-Age (6-11 years)

Teenagers (12-18 years)


Read about our cafeteria, gift shop, laundry facilities and other amenities available during your child's hospitalization.