Paediatric surgery is a surgical specialty determined purely by the patient’s age. This means that paediatric surgeons have experience in the full spectrum of surgical procedures used in children, ranging from newborn babies to teenagers. They are familiar with the special requirements of the children having the surgery, and of those of their families and carers.
Where can my child have paediatric surgery?
Private paediatric surgery is usually performed in a children’s hospital or a specialist paediatric surgery unit within a larger hospital. Of course, if your child needs emergency paediatric surgery, such as appendix removal, they may need to be treated by a surgeon who is a specialist in a field other than paediatrics and this may not happen in a special paediatric surgery unit.
What are the most common types of paediatric surgery?
In general, paediatric surgery involves a relatively small number of common planned, non-emergency procedures, including:
Procedures carried out to treat medical conditions:
Hernia repair (groin, abdomen, belly button)
Hydrocoele (collection of fluid around the testes)
Removal of adenoids and tonsils
Insertion of grommets
Weight-loss surgery in older children
Procedures done for cosmetic reasons:
Ear correction (usually pinning)
Removal of extra fingers/toes
Removal of birthmarks
Birth defects such as holes in the heart or abdominal walls, cleft palate, neural tube defects and other congenital abnormalities require specialist paediatric surgery soon after birth. These days, routine ultrasound scans during pregnancy means that many abnormalities likely to require paediatric surgery can be detected before your baby is born, allowing you and your healthcare team time to prepare.
What happens before and after paediatric surgery?
The team responsible for your child’s surgery will be able to help you and your child prepare for surgery and your child’s stay in hospital. You might wish to discuss with them ways to help your child understand what is going to happen.
Before surgery, your child’s doctor will discuss the procedure and anaesthetic with you and ask you to sign a consent form. Some paediatric surgery can be performed under a local anaesthetic, while some procedures require your child to be asleep. There are specific rules about what your child can eat and drink before surgery, and these will be explained to you by your hospital team.
After surgery, your child will need time to come round from the anaesthetic. While most children get over a general anaesthetic quite quickly, there can be some short-lived side effects including headaches, a sore throat, feeling light-headed, nausea and vomiting.
During their stay in hospital for private paediatric surgery, your child will be looked after by specialist paediatricians, provided with balanced meals, encouraged to play with toys and games suitable for their age, and given access to teachers if their stay is to be a long one. There may also be parental accommodation available depending on the length of time your child needs to stay in hospital.