Your Child’s Bowel Surgery
Your child is having bowel surgery. This operation may involve the small intestine, large intestine (colon), or rectum (where stool collects before leaving the body). Your child’s healthcare provider will discuss with you the reasons your child is having this surgery. This sheet tells you how to prepare for the surgery and what to expect during it. It also tells you how to help your child recover afterward.
Two ways of performing bowel surgery
The 2 methods of performing bowel surgery are:
Open surgery is the traditional method. It is done through one incision in the belly. This incision is large enough for the surgeon to have a direct view of the bowel.
Laparoscopic surgery (also called laparoscopy) is done through several smaller incisions in the belly. A laparoscope (a thin tube with a tiny video camera and a light attached) is inserted through one incision. This gives the surgeon a clear view of the inside of the belly. Surgical tools are then put through other small incisions to perform the surgery.
Preparing a few weeks before surgery
Tell your child’s healthcare provider what medicines your child takes. This includes over-the-counter medicines, herbs, and supplements. Your child may have to avoid taking certain kinds of medicines before the surgery. This will help prevent problems during the surgery.
Preparing the day before surgery
Carefully follow all instructions you are given to prepare your child for surgery. Below are some common things you might be asked to do the day before surgery:
Give your child nothing but clear liquids. For 12 to 24 hours before surgery, your child should not eat any solid foods. Give only clear liquids such as broth, gelatin, and clear fruit juice.
Help your child do bowel prep, if needed. A bowel prep may be done for 12 to 24 hours before surgery. It helps make sure that the bowel is clear of stool. This may involve your child drinking a liquid laxative. Or, you may be asked to give your child an enema (medicine given through the anus). If necessary, both methods may be used. Sometimes, a nasogastric (NG) tube will be used to give your child liquids before surgery. This is a flexible tube inserted through your child’s nose down into the stomach. This will be done after your child is admitted to the hospital.
Make sure your child’s stomach is empty the morning of surgery. Do not give your child anything to eat or drink 6 to 12 hours before surgery. This means no water or even chewing gum. Your child may have been given antibiotic pills to take before surgery. These can be swallowed with small sips of water.
The day of surgery
Here is what to expect on the surgery day:
Arrive at the hospital on time. You will be asked to fill out certain forms.
Your child will change into a gown.
An anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will meet with you. He or she will discuss the medicines that will help your child sleep through the surgery. Be sure to ask any questions you have.
Your child will be given an intravenous (IV) line. This gives your child fluids and medicines. Depending on the age of your child, the IV line may be put into the arm or the hand. The IV may be started after your child is asleep.
During the surgery
Here is what to expect during the surgery:
Your child will be given general anesthesia. This puts your child into a deep sleep. A breathing tube will be placed in the trachea or windpipe to help your child breathe during the surgery.
A soft tube called a catheter may be placed into your child’s bladder. This helps drain urine.
The surgery will be performed. Your surgeon will use either the laparoscopic or open surgery method that has been discussed with you.
Recovering in the hospital
Here is what to expect while your child is recovering in the hospital:
After the surgery, your child will be taken to the recovery room. This is also called the post-anesthesia care unit, or PACU. Later, your child may be moved to a regular hospital room.
Your child will be attached to monitors that check your child’s breathing, blood pressure, and pulse.
Your child will be given pain medicine to stay comfortable.
The catheter used to drain urine will likely be removed shortly after surgery. The IV line will stay in place for a few days.
Your child may be asked to get up and walk around soon after surgery. This helps improve blood flow and prevent blood clots. It also helps the colon return to normal function (if the colon was not removed).
Your child won’t eat or drink anything until the colon (if not removed) begins working again. When this happens, your child will be given a liquid diet. When ready, your child will then return to eating solid foods.
Your child may have been given a stoma (an opening in the belly) during the surgery. If so, stoma care will be discussed with you.
Your child may need to stay in the hospital for 7 days or longer.
Recovering at home
Here is what to expect while your child is recovering at home:
Bring your child back to the healthcare provider 7 days after surgery, as scheduled.
Being active helps the body heal. But too much activity can harm the healing incision(s). Your child may walk as much as is comfortable. But your child should avoid lifting heavy things or vigorous activity, such as running and sports.
Your child may have some bloating, loose stools, and more frequent bowel movements. This is normal after bowel surgery.
Give your child any prescribed medicines as instructed.
Follow any other instructions you are given for recovery.
Call the healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider if your child has any of the following:
In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher
In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher
In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher
A fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older
Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever
Nausea or vomiting
Redness, swelling, discharge, or pain around an incision
Trouble passing stool
Blood in stool
Belly pain that gets worse