Finding surgical care that’s right for your child

Outpatient surgery centers are a trend in health care. But are they a good fit for a child?

Choosing where to have your child’s surgery can be a daunting task. What kind of care is going to make your child and family feel safest, physically and emotionally?

Technology advancements have made it possible for some procedures to be done at outpatient surgery centers. Costs can be lower at these types of locations. However, regulations for surgery centers can be less strict than those for hospitals or medical centers depending on the state.

Kentucky hospitals are held to a higher standard in terms of environmental and sanitary regulations, and must report more detailed data about infections, according to the Kentucky Administrative Regulations for Health Care Facilities, 902 KAR 20:106, from the Office of Inspector General.

Most outpatient surgery centers serve adults and children, but caring for this broad age range does not allow for a custom environment designed for kids. Also, should your child need acute care during the procedure, they may not be equipped to handle it. That means they may rely on calling 911 to have the child transported by ambulance to a hospital.

Choosing outpatient surgical care for your child

Ask these questions of your facility:

  • What is the surgeon’s history with the procedure, and how often do they perform it?
  • What is the safety record at the facility? Is it accredited and certified? Look it up at
  • Is the anesthesiologist pediatric trained?
  • Will radiology or other diagnostic tests be reviewed by a pediatric radiologist?
  • What is the backup plan if my child needs a higher level of medical care? How close is the surgery center to a hospital if my child needs to be unexpectedly admitted?
  • Is there anyone to help explain the procedure to my child and help calm their fears?

At a children’s hospital outpatient surgery department, if a child needs additional care during or after a procedure, the team is fully prepared. The surgical team consists of pediatric specialty trained physicians and caregivers who are able to provide anesthesia, surgical expertise and any needed medical care for infants to adolescents.

Children’s bodies have different needs and react differently than an adult’s. A pediatric radiology team is trained to capture diagnostic images using the lowest safe dose of radiation depending on the size of the child.

Child life therapists also are an important feature of a children’s hospital team. They are specially trained to help calm the fears of children (and families!) while helping them cope with unfamiliar experiences.

Calming fears: A mom’s experience makes her decision easy

When Lauren Davis’ daughter, Avery, needed ear tubes removed, she was old enough to fear the unknown.

During the presurgery consultation, Avery peppered her surgeon with questions — her eyes as big as saucers. “Is it going to bleed?” “Will I have a shot?” She was in tears.

When the day of her surgery arrived, the staff of Norton Children’s Medical Center catered to Avery to put her, as well as mom, at ease.

“From the moment we walked in they made her feel like she was the star of the show,” Davis said.

Mom and daughter had matching wristbands. Avery picked out her own gown, and staff told her how the sticker on her finger would track her pulse.

Just for Kids

Norton Children’s Hospital, Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center all have pediatric outpatient surgery departments and emergency departments designed to care for children from infants to age 18.

“Every step along the way Avery got a kid-friendly explanation to make sure her questions were answered and her fears were calmed. She also planned her postsurgery snack out for after she woke up,” Davis said. “While they answered her questions, I felt my fears fade too.”

Avery’s biggest request was met over and above: She enjoys pretending to be a doctor. During surgery prep, she asked for gloves, Band-Aids, extra gauze and anything extra the nurses had. She told them she was building a doctor’s kit. When she awoke, they had assembled a bag of one-time items they used during her surgery: oxygen mask, tubing, etc.

“A week later we got a get-well card from the surgery staff. It was addressed ‘Dr. Avery Davis’ and had Doc McStuffins stickers inside,” Davis said. “As a mom, I thought the surgery went great, follow-up was a breeze and the experience changed my mind forever. Children need medical care in a place designed especially for them with people who are trained to care for them — Norton Children’s is the place. Providing this type of care in this way is a calling, I’m sure of it now.”