Children's Health and Wellness

Types of Surgery for Children

What is surgical diagnosis?

You and your child's physician will discuss surgery as a way to correct your child's health problem. This decision will be based on careful evaluation of your child's medical history and medical tests, such as blood tests, X-rays, MRI, CT scan, electrocardiogram, or other laboratory work performed to determine the exact diagnosis.

What are the different types of surgery?

Surgery can be classified as major or minor, depending on the seriousness of the illness, the parts of the body affected, the complexity of the operation, and the expected recovery time.

  • Major surgery. These are surgeries of the head, neck, chest, and some surgeries on the belly (abdomen). The recovery time can be lengthy and may involve a stay in intensive care or several days in the hospital. There is a higher risk of complications after such surgeries. In children, types of major surgery may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Removal of brain tumors

    • Correction of bone malformations of the skull and face

    • Repair of congenital heart disease, transplantation of organs, and repair of intestinal malformations

    • Correction of spinal abnormalities and treatment of injuries sustained from major blunt trauma

    • Correction of problems in fetal development of the lungs, intestines, diaphragm, or anus.

  • Minor surgery. Some surgeries that children undergo are considered minor. The recovery time is short and children return to their usual activities rapidly. These surgeries are most often done as an outpatient, and children can return home the same day. Complications from these types of surgeries are rare. Examples of the most common types of minor surgeries may include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Placement of ear tubes

    • Hernia repairs

    • Correction of bone fractures

    • Removal of skin lesions

    • Biopsy of growths

  • Elective surgery. These are procedures you decide your child should undergo, which may be helpful, but are not necessarily essential. An example might be to have a birthmark removed, or to circumcise your male infant.

  • Required surgery. These are procedures that need to be done to ensure the quality of your child's life in the future. An example might be having a spinal fusion to correct severe curvature of the spine. Required surgery, unlike emergency surgery, does not necessarily have to be done immediately and can allow you time to prepare your child for the experience.

  • Urgent or emergency surgery. This type of surgery is done in response to an urgent medical need, such as the correction of a life-threatening congenital heart malformation or the repair of injured internal organs after an automobile accident.

Print Source: Psychosocial Issues in Child Health Care. Geiger Tasha C., PhD. Textbook of Pediatric Care. Section 1;107. 2009.
Online Source: American College of Surgeonshttp://www.facs.org/public_info/wwhmy.pdf
Online Source: American College of Surgeonshttp://www.facs.org/public_info/yourhealth/pedsurg.pdf
Online Source: American Academy of Pediatricshttp://www.healthychildren.org/english/family-life/health-management/pediatric-specialists/pages/what-is-a-pediatric-surgeon.aspx
Online Editor: Green, Chelsea
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Sweetwood, Jane
Date Last Reviewed: 11/3/2013
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