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The Operating Room

What is the operating room like?

The operating room can be a scary place, with unfamiliar equipment and people dressed in strange outfits. If your child visits the hospital before surgery, a child life specialist can show them some of the equipment. A child life specialist is trained in the growth and developmental needs of children.

One thing your child will need to know is that people in the operating room will be wearing surgical clothes. This is done to help prevent germs from causing an infection.

Surgeon looking at an x-ray

Surgical clothing may include:

  • A protective cap covering their hair

  • Masks covering their mouths and noses

  • Shades or glasses over their eyes

  • Gloves on their hands

  • Long gowns over their clothes

  • Protective covers on their shoes

The surgeon may also wear special glasses that help them see more clearly.

Children need to be aware that the people in the operating room will be wearing this clothing. They can become frightened if they're not aware that the staff will be wearing strange clothes. If your child is able to visit the hospital before surgery, ask if your child can play with the gloves, mask, and cap so they're not so scary.

Learning about the operating room equipment

The following is a brief list of equipment your child may see in the operating room. However, each operating room varies depending on the type of surgery being done. Also, many children are given medicine to help them sleep before going to surgery, and may not be awake enough to notice the equipment.

  • The operating table in the center of the room can be raised, lowered, and tilted in any direction.

  • The operating room lights are over the table to provide bright light, without shadows, during surgery.

  • The anesthesia machine is at the head of the operating table. This machine has tubes that connect to the patient to help them breathe. Built-in monitors help control the mixture of gases in the breathing circuit. They also measure the child's heart rate and blood pressure.

  • The anesthesia cart is next to the anesthesia machine. It contains the medicines, equipment, and other supplies that the anesthesiologist may need.

  • Sterile instruments to be used during surgery are arranged on a stainless steel table.

  • Adhesive patches are placed on the chest to measure the heart rate and breathing rate of your child. They connect to the monitor.

  • The pulse oximeter machine attaches to the patient's finger with an elastic band aid. It measures how much oxygen is in the blood.

  • There will be a blood pressure measuring machine that automatically inflates the blood pressure cuff on your child's arm.

  • An electrocautery machine uses high-frequency electrical signals to cauterize or seal off blood vessels. They may also be used to cut through tissue with a minimal amount of bleeding.

  • If needed, a heart-lung machine or other specialized equipment may be in the room.

If your child is awake and still has questions about the equipment once they go into surgery, the surgical staff can answer them. Ask the child life specialist what words to use to describe the operating room equipment to your child.

Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Todd Campbell MD
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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