Planning ahead for your child’s surgery this summer

To minimize missing school days, many kids get their elective surgery done over the summer vacation. But surgery and recovery can also mean missing out on summer fun. Knowing what to expect can help parents and kids plan ahead.

Here are tips from two surgeons who perform some common types of pediatric surgeries that often are done in summer.

Ear, nose and throat surgery

Tonsil or adenoid removal
Expect to have a bad sore throat for a week or two, with restrictions on physical activity and travel for about two weeks. “The upside? Eating ice cream to soothe the sore throat is encouraged,” says Dr. Nina Shapiro, a professor of head and neck surgery and the director of pediatric otolaryngology at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.

Ear tube surgery
After ear tubes are surgically inserted, typically the only restriction is no swimming for four to six days after the procedure. The patient can bathe or shower the first day and, the following day, return to school or camp and resume all non-water related sports. Air travel is usually allowed two days after surgery.

Eardrum repair (tympanoplasty)
Eardrum surgery is a more complicated procedure requiring a little more time on dry land. While the surgery itself is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, most doctors require several weeks of no swimming or air travel. “Outdoor activities, such as biking and playing, can be resumed within a week or so,” says Shapiro.

Orthopedic surgery

“Summer is also a popular time for young athletes to have orthopedic surgery for sports-related injuries, especially since fewer team sports are active during the break,” says Dr. Anthony Scaduto, chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury
High school athletes who sustain an ACL injury while participating in spring sports often elect to have their surgery during the summer. This allows them to complete their coursework and then focus on their rehabilitation, which typically includes physical therapy and wearing a brace for about six weeks. “Most adolescents will return to sports nine to 12 months after their ACL reconstruction,” says Scaduto.

Scoliosis surgery
This procedure to repair a curved spine often is done during the summer to minimize lost time from school after a complex surgery. “Children can still enjoy some summer activities after their scoliosis surgery, as we allow them to swim and ride bikes as soon as three weeks after their operation,” he says.

Questions to ask

Prior to surgery, Scaduto suggests asking your surgeon these questions:

• Will my child have to wear a cast after surgery?
• How long will they have to stay away from the pool or beach?
• Are surgical infections more (less) common during the summer?
• Does the incision need to be protected from the sun?
• Does waiting until summer increase the risk of the medical condition becoming a bigger problem or more difficult to treat?

Parents and kids should keep in mind that surgery during the summer doesn’t always guarantee a full return to physical activities when school resumes, he says.

Importantly, schedule the surgery well in advance to help ensure the preferred dates and times are available.

“After the recovery period," says Shapiro, "kids can have the rest of summer to feel even better than before."


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