Kids In The Operating Room

When scented lip gloss is an anesthesiologist’s best tool.

By Dr. Gregory Utesch, McFarland Clinic Anesthesiologist

Health Connect Summer 2019 - Kids in the Operating Room Collage. Charlie is in the Operating Room checking out instruments. (below) Charlie learns about tools used by  Dr. Gregory Utesch, anesthesiologist.

The day of surgery is a stressful time for all patients, but even more so for children. Our youngest patients suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar and intimidating circumstances. It’s scary!

First and foremost, we – anesthesia provider, nurses and patient care staff – try to connect with children to help them get as comfortable with the environment as possible.

We show them some examples of the equipment they may see, most commonly a mask used for the anesthesia. Regardless of the surgery, children are nearly always put to sleep by breathing anesthetic gasses. This is done by holding a mask near their face as the gasses blow by.

Lip Gloss

Scented lip gloss is applied to the mask to make it more appealing. We let the children choose the flavor of lip gloss, to give them an element of control in the process. This is a fun moment!

We assure them that there will be no shots or pokes while they are awake. We explain that there will be a piece of plastic (an IV) taped to their hand when they wake up, so they don't have to get any shots then either. We give them a surgical hat to wear so they look like every else.

The hospital frequently has small gifts available, like stuffed animals and/or stickers. This gives the youngsters something else to focus on at the moment of separation from their parents.

Electric Ambulance

When it's time to go back to the operating room, nurses accompany the children. They can choose how they want to get there: They can be carried by the nurse, wheeled back while in their bed, walk next to the nurse, be pulled in a wagon, or go by the deluxe and preferred method, by driving our electric ambulance.

In cases where the patient remains extremely anxious, despite our best efforts, we will resort to oral sedation medication. This, however, is usually a last resort and infrequently utilized.

We took our mini ambulance to a local daycare. - Click image to play YouTube Video

Mini Ambulance

We took our mini ambulance to a local daycare. Play the video to see what happened. 

Watch the Video

OR and Recovery

Once in the operating room, efficiency is our best friend. Even the best-prepared child will start getting a little anxious at this point. We quickly get them checked in, apply appropriate monitors and get them to sleep as fast as possible. Patients are usually asleep less than a minute after they arrive in the operating room!

Efficiency is key in recovery, too. We will usually keep kids in recovery just long enough to assess that they are waking up adequately and have good pain control. We want to get them back to familiar faces as quickly as possible.

In recovery, the average time for an adult is one hour. For children, depending on the type of surgery, that average is closer to 10 or 15 minutes. Once back with their family, it’s our hope that the child can finally relax, knowing that the stressful event is behind them!