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What to Expect Before and After Your Child’s G-Tube Surgery

What to Expect Before and After Your Child’s G-Tube Surgery

Everyone’s experience is slightly different. Expect there to be some variation between your experiences and mine. Please, do not take any information in this post as medical advice. Any suggestions are simply that. Please do not take anything written here as reason to go against orders of your child’s doctor or nurse.

Before you leave home, I recommend taking the following with you:

  • Any medical supplies your child may need in case of an emergency on the way to the hospital.
  • Two days worth of clothes, and anything else you want to bring to stay the night. If there’s any concern about whether or not your child is developing an infection they may not discharge you after the first night.
  • A can of formula if your child is on something uncommon. If you can’t walk into your local grocery store and buy it, the hospital may not have it either.
  • Familiar cups / bottles / etc.

When you arrive at the hospital you’ll sign in and be invited to have a seat in the waiting room. The time of your surgery depends upon the age of your child. The youngest go in earliest in the morning. They’ll call you back when they’re ready to start with the paperwork and introductions.

You’ll meet the pediatric anesthesiologist and assisting nurse(s). The doctor will come and explain what they’re going to do. You typically do not meet the surgeon, as they’re only involved for a short period of time. There will be a lot of signatures to provide, and a flurry of paperwork to verify. It will seem overwhelming, but realistically the paperwork is all quite routine and should already be in place before the day of the surgery. If anything is missing don’t panic. They’ll put through emergency calls as needed to the necessary providers.

If they don’t offer to let you come back with your child as they drift them off to sleep, ask if you can go with them. Policies vary between hospitals. I was able to go back and comfort my son until he drifted off to sleep. It helped me handle the whole process much better than if I had handed him off to someone and watched them walk away. If they don’t allow you to go back and you want to, don’t feel bad about getting as far as they’ll let you go.

While your child is in surgery its best to have something to focus on besides worry. Relaxing music is my top recommendation. I’ve seen others read or play games on their phone. I’ve been too upset to do either of those, and trying leaves me staring at the book or phone and not interacting with the object whatsoever. The g-tube surgery is a relatively short procedure, so there’s thankfully not a lot of time to fill. The longest part of the process is putting the child to sleep and letting them wake back up.

When the procedure is done they take the child to recovery. You’re not immediately notified because they want to give the child time to wake up before calling the parents back. If your child is scheduled later in the day and is due for their afternoon nap, it can be quite a while before they wake. If you’re concerned about how long it’s taking to be called back, ask to speak with the nurse. They can reassure you your child is OK and simply hasn’t stirred yet.

One exception to this, is if your child is going to be completely inconsolable the moment they become conscious. I’ve been told this isn’t the normal situation. The children tend to come out well rested and calm. This hasn’t been our experience. Our son fights tooth and nail as soon as he wakes up and will not settle without me there. If your child has a history of this type of behavior, let the nurse know before the procedure. They bring me back before he stirs to avoid having to run out and get me the moment he opens his eyes because he’s screaming and fighting with them. If your child hasn’t gone under anesthesia before and you want to go back before they wake up, make your case to the nurse before the procedure. It never hurts to ask.

After the surgery your child will be on pain medication and will likely spend a night in the hospital in order to ensure they’re able to tolerate feeding. The tube will be draining openly for a few hours after the procedure and you’ll be advised what to look for as far as signs of infection. If you’re not, ask. If at any point your child appears to be in pain advocate for additional pain medication.

They may at some point refuse your request in order to check for fever (the first sign of infection when redness and swelling is already present). There are two arguments you can make against this. The first, if your child’s body wants to have a fever it will regardless of medication. Second, the benefits of checking for fever at this moment does not warrant putting the child in pain. The second is more of a delay tactic, but even a few hours can help your child recover and feel better. They might ignore you because the staff disagrees, but trust me when I tell you you’ll feel better for trying and being told no than if you don’t fight at all.

If your child tolerates feeding and has no complications, you’ll go home the next day. Make sure the following are in order before leaving the hospital:

  • Supplies have been shipped, or are in the process of being shipped, to your home and will arrive by the time you get there and need them.
  • The nurse or admitting caring for your child in the hospital has taught you how to vent your child, care for your child’s tube site, and feed your child. If you’re going to be using a pump, someone has been by to instruct you how to use it and to let you know who you can call if you have questions after you get home (you probably will).
  • A nurse will be by to make sure all of your supplies have arrived and that you know how to do everything you were shown in the hospital. You might consider this optional if you feel the cost outweighs the benefit, but it would be good to have someone who is familiar with tube feeding and can be trusted to answer the phone on speed dial.

The recovery time is fairly quick compared to other surgeries. It took about two weeks for our son to get completely back to normal, but he was mostly himself after the first 3-4 days. He just didn’t want any pressure on his tummy or to have the tube tugged.

Good luck with the procedure. My thoughts and prayers are with you. If you would like to make a specific request for positive energy of any kind on the day of your child’s procedure, please post it in the comments.

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