Preparing for an operation

Preparing for an operation

If your child needs an operation, we will tell you at your appointment and then arrange a suitable date. For some surgical procedures you may be asked to attend a pre-admission appointment to meet the surgical team, ask questions and discuss any concerns.

On the day of any operation you will have the opportunity to meet clinical staff involved in your child’s procedure, ask questions and discuss any concerns.

Before your admission date it’s important to take a look at these things to do.

Safe Surgery at Alder Hey

World Health OrganisationKnowing your child needs an operation can be a distressing and anxious time. You’ll probably have lots of questions to ask and you will want to know your child is receiving excellent care. Alder Hey is proud to be a World Health Organisation Safe Surgery Site and this means we’re extremely serious about performing surgery to the highest standards of safety.

Specific types of surgery

Our admission process can sometimes vary with certain types of procedure:

Cardiac (heart) surgery

The cardiac team will invite you to a pre-admission clinic, usually on a Thursday, where you will meet the team including surgeons and liaison nurses. This is an opportunity to discuss your concerns, ask questions and find out more about the team who will be performing the surgery. We will also ask you to fill in some consent paperwork and you will have the opportunity to take a tour of your ward and the Intensive Care Unit.

If you’ve travelled to Alder Hey from outside Liverpool, you may be able to stay at Ronald McDonald House, a free accommodation facility on the hospital site.

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery

ENT surgery can be performed as a day case or as an inpatient admission. If your child is coming for day case surgery, we may still ask you to come prepared to stay overnight.

You will receive all the information you need before the date of the operation. At the outpatient appointment where we schedule the procedure, you will have an opportunity to ask questions and raise any concerns. We also have a pre-admission clinic that we might ask you to attend if your child has other medical conditions.

Your admission letter will tell you where to go on the day of surgery.


Europe's first 3-T intra-operative MRI scannerPatients who are coming for neurosurgery will usually be admitted the day before their operation and will follow the usual admissions procedure. This will also include any tests or scans that are needed before the operation, a pre-operation wash and you will also be asked to sign a parental consent form.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call one of our specialist nurses on 0151 282 4492.

The neurosurgery operating theatre is equipped with our 3-T intra-operative MRI scanner, a pioneering technology that reduces the need for repeat surgery in 90% of cases. Alder Hey was the first paediatric setting in Europe to have one of these scanners.

After the operation, patients are moved to our High Dependency Unit (HDU) where they can be closely monitored.

The day of the operation: Going to theatre

Seeing your child go to theatre can be emotional and distressing. To help you prepare you may like to know a little more about what to expect before, during and after surgery.

Before theatre

Your clinical team, including nurses, doctors and surgeons will meet you and your child for an assessment. They will answer any questions you have, and during this assessment the surgeon who is performing the operation will use a marker pen to highlight the area on your child’s body where surgery is to take place. This is a safety procedure and the pen marks will wash off easily.

Going to theatre

Before your child’s operation, one of the ward staff will apply a special cream to their hand or foot to make needles less painful.

When it’s time for the operation, you are welcome to accompany a member of the ward team who will escort your child to theatre. Your child can walk, lie on a trolley or use their wheelchair – whatever is most comfortable. One parent or carer can also accompany your child into the anaesthetic room and stay with them until they’re asleep.

A general anaesthetic will be given through your child’s hand, or through a mask which fits over the nose and mouth.

Waiting during your child’s operation

We understand that for parents and carers, this can be the most distressing time of all. The length of the operation will vary depending on the procedure. For longer operations we ask that you leave your contact details with a nurse so that we can contact you if we need to.

You can pass the time by:

  • Taking a break and getting something to eat or drink in the atrium. You can read more about Alder Hey’s facilities here
  • Using a parent waiting room – one of the nursing staff will show you where you can wait
  • Visting the Sanctuary - the treehouse above the atrium is where our spiritual care team is based. They are here to offer support, to listen or just have a chat in a peaceful, reflective environment
  • Getting some fresh air – our hospital is built in a park and there are garden areas to sit in or have a wander around. You could also explore the facilities in the local area. Please remember Alder Hey is a non-smoking hospital and this applies to the whole hospital site, indoors and outdoors.

After the operation

Your child will be moved to a recovery room until they wake up. They will then be moved to their bedroom on a ward where you can see them.

Painbusting – managing feelings of pain, sickness and soreness after an operation

It’s important for us to be able to help children manage any pain or discomfort after their procedure and we encourage children to tell us if they don’t feel well when they wake up. As part of preparing your child for their operation, please download and read Painbusters, a cartoon guide to managing pain, designed for the whole family.

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