Surgery for children’s cancers

Child in a hospital bed ready for surgery

Your child may need surgery for various reasons, for example:

Where will my child have their surgery?

Many types of surgery will happen at CHI Crumlin. Surgery for brain and spinal cord tumours happens at Temple Street or Beaumont hospital in Dublin. In some cases, children travel abroad for surgery.

Fasting (not eating or drinking)

All babies and children will need to stop eating a drinking for a few hours’ before having a general anaesthetic. Usually this means no solid food / milk for 6 hours, no breast milk for 4 hours and no clear fluids (water or clear fizzy drinks) for 1 hour before the operation, but your nurse will tell you what to do. 

It can be hard if your child is upset because they are hungry, especially if they are younger and cannot understand. If they are on steroids they are likely to feel even hungrier. 

Offer them the choice of having something to eat before the fast begins, even if it is very early in the morning or during the night. It is not always possible to tell what time they will go to theatre, as delays often cannot be avoided. 


Premedication (also called pre-med) is medicine given to prepare your child for the anaesthetic. If your child cannot take it or vomits it after taking it, always let the nurse looking after your child know. They may need to repeat it or give a different one. Not every child will need a premedication. 

Important to remember…

  • Some children may be scared or upset about going to theatre. Please speak to the ward play specialist about ways to help them. 
  • Make sure your child is clean going to theatre. They should ideally have a bath or shower the night before attending. 
  • Make sure all rings, chains, medals, jewellery, watches and nail varnish are removed from your child.
  • Children must put on a theatre gown and be wearing their correct patient identity name band (they will not be allowed into theatre without one).
  • If your child wishes, they can bring a favourite toy or book with them.  
  • One parent can stay with the child until they have been anaesthetised and can take the toy or book back to the ward.  

After the operation

  • After the procedure, your child will be moved into the recovery room to allow time for the anaesthetic to wear off and for them to wake up.  
  • When your child has recovered, the ward staff will be contacted to collect your child. Please feel free to go with the nurse to collect them. There is limited space outside theatre so it is not possible for parents to wait there throughout the entire procedure. 
  • After the anaesthetic, remember your child may be very drowsy. Do keep the bed or cot sides up when leaving them. Ask a nurse or doctor when they can eat and drink again.  
  • Pain is a common side-effect after surgery. If your child is in pain, ask your nurse for medication to help ease the pain.  

For more information

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1800 200 700

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