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Is It Safe For My Child to Have Surgery During the Pandemic?

Many children need operations for a variety of reasons, but families may be reluctant to schedule surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul Danielson, M.D., chair of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Department of Surgery, explains how the hospital is keeping kids safe and the dangers of postponing necessary surgical procedures.

What changes are hospitals making in the wake of COVID-19 (coronavirus)? 

Johns Hopkins All Children’s number one goal is the safety of patients and staff. With that said there are several safety precautions the hospital has made due to COVID-19, including:

  • COVID-19 testing for patients before surgery, ensuring it is safe for the child to undergo surgery and it’s also a layer of safety for staff from being exposed to the virus and potentially spreading it to other people
  • Staff wearing specialized protective equipment, all designed so to prevent the spread of the virus
  • Limiting exposure and visitors so that only one parent or guardian may accompany the child to the hospital, and are also appropriately screened the day of the surgery
  • Reconfiguring waiting rooms to comply with physical distancing and placing families in individual rooms where they can wait for their child during surgery

What should I know before scheduling my child’s surgery?

For the most part, the surgery scheduling process is the same as it always has been. The biggest change in the process is that the patient needs to make one additional trip to come in and get tested for COVID-19 before he or she comes in for surgery. The test needs to be done 48-72 hours before the date of the scheduled surgery. For this purpose, several testing centers for pre-surgical patients have been set up. Staff who are specialized to work with children are also trained to collect samples in pediatric patients to ensure accurate test results. It’s a quick 15-minute appointment and the patient gets the result the next day. If the test is negative, the patient has the greenlight and is ready for surgery. If it should come back positive, your physician will be alerted immediately to speak with you about next steps and rescheduling the surgical procedure.

What do parents need to know about the day of the surgery? 

A representative from the hospital will call the day before to give the family members some reminders and check on the current health status of the patient. Upon arriving at the hospital, the patient will be assigned to an individual room where the staff can prepare him or her for surgery.

For more information, visit

Photo Credit: Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

About the Author: Dr. Danielson became chair of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Department of Surgery in 2020 after serving in that role on an interim basis beginning in December 2018. He specializes in general surgery and was an early adopter of minimally invasive surgical techniques, developing expertise in treating chest wall deformities. He founded the first fellowship sponsored by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in pediatric surgery and was also instrumental in bringing the National Quality Improvement in Surgery Program to the institution. Dr. Danielson was named Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital physician of the year in the 2015 Johns Hopkins Medicine Clinical Excellence Awards and in 2017 was named director of innovative training and education. He joined the hospital staff in 2008.


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