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About Pediatric Surgery

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Dr. John Waldhausen

Under the leadership of Dr. John Waldhausen, the Pediatric Surgery team at Seattle Children’s Hospital has the breadth and depth of knowledge to manage any condition – along with all of the unexpected issues that might arise during treatment. Our surgeons and all other clinical staff are trained to think about each child's unique condition and how best to keep that child safe during surgery.

We provide comprehensive care in pediatric surgery and for all conditions of the chest, abdomen and pelvis by combining the latest research, the most advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques and state-of-the-art equipment.

The Pediatric Surgery team takes a team-based approach for every child. We consult on each case and partner with all needed Seattle Children’s specialists. This is often called multi-disciplinary care.

If your child really needs surgery, are you sure the surgeon is experienced enough to be able to handle any contingency? Even straightforward operations can turn out to have variances that only an experienced team of pediatric surgeons can handle. That's why you should come to Seattle Children’s.

Dr. John Waldhausen, chief, Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery

Each child benefits from the experience and skills of many specialists throughout the hospital, from evaluation and diagnosis through follow-up. No other pediatric institution in our region can match the thorough care that our patients receive at Children’s.

We see patients for clinic appointments in Seattle, Bellevue, Federal Way, Everett and Tri-Cities. Depending on the type of surgery, the procedure will either be done at our hospital in Seattle or at our Bellevue Clinic and Surgery Center.

The Pediatric Surgery division is part of the Department of Surgery at both Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington. Because we are an academic medical center affiliated with the university, our doctors and nurses teach the next generation of clinicians. In turn, the best and brightest students constantly stimulate us to think about new ways of understanding and treating disease.

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The Pediatric Surgery team handled our daughter's very rare condition with concern for both her future and for her feelings. Their sensitivity (not to mention skill) still means a great deal to us.

Karen and Gregg Gerstenberger, parents, Poulsbo, Washington

Why Seattle Children's?

Some people think that surgeons who operate on adults are also experts in the surgical care of infants, children and teens. We don't agree. Growing bodies are different from adult bodies and childhood diseases are not the same as adult diseases. Even the way kids react to surgery – from anesthesia to IV fluids – is different than adults.

That's why we focus only on kids and why our surgeons are all board certified or eligible for board certification.

Whether we're treating a 1-pound preemie in our Level IV NICU or a 300-pound high school football player, our doctors are specially trained to treat children of every age and developmental stage.

In fact, every member of our team – from our appointment schedulers to our pediatric nurses – is specially trained to work with children and their families, and our facilities and equipment reflect this kid-friendly, family-centered approach.

Is surgery best?

We've found that some conditions that are commonly treated with surgery are actually better treated using other therapies that don’t include surgery. Even though we're a surgical team, we often use nonoperative methods to treat children. In fact, many of the children we see do not require surgery – more than 40% of our patients go home without needing to have an operation.

But if we determine that an operation is the best method to fix your child's condition, we can offer expertise in a broad range of operative approaches, including minimally invasive procedures – a technique that means a smaller scar, less pain during recovery and a shorter hospital stay. We do more minimally invasive surgeries on children for a broader range of conditions than any institution in the region. Because some of our pediatric surgeons are national leaders in using minimally invasive surgical techniques, we have the most expertise in assessing whether laparoscopic surgery,  robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery,  or thoracoscopy is best for your child.

More surgeries, better outcomes

In 2012, we had over 4,000 patient visits, and our doctors performed more than 2,500 general and thoracic surgical procedures. Of these operations, nearly one third were day surgeries and required no overnight stay. Being able to take your child home on the same day after surgery reduces schedule disruptions that illness or injury brings.

Overall, Seattle Children’s surgical teams – from craniofacial to orthopedics – perform about 13,000 surgeries each year. That's double the number of pediatric surgeries completed by anyone else in the region.

More cases mean greater surgical expertise and a sharper ability to determine if surgery is even necessary – and that adds up to better outcomes.

If you want your child to have surgery, go anywhere; if you want someone to think about what's in your child's best interest, come to Seattle Children’s.

Dr. Robert Sawin, Seattle Children's pediatric surgeon-in-chief

Pain management

We understand that helping your family anticipate and prepare for a surgery is very important. We also know that managing your child's pain after surgery is critical to the healing process. That's why Seattle Children’s has a dedicated Pain Medicine team that specializes in helping kids recover more quickly. We use a variety of methods, from pain medicines formulated especially for children to regional anesthesia to alternatives such as acupuncture.

Broad range of conditions treated

Our doctors are experts in general pediatric surgery and at treating all conditions of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. From fixing the simplest hernia or treating appendicitis, to operating on the most complex abdominal wall defect, to performing surgery on patients who have cancer, the Pediatric Surgery team is bringing groundbreaking advances in diagnosis and treatment to the children of the Pacific Northwest. Read a sampling of the conditions we treat.

Pediatric surgery team

Learn more about our outstanding team, which is one of the most experienced pediatric surgery teams in the nation. We perform twice as many general and thoracic surgeries on infants, children and teens as any other institution in the region.

Comprehensive, coordinated care

Our expert pediatric surgeons work with our neonatal team to treat congenital anomalies at or just after birth in our Level IV NICU. Seattle Children’s is the first hospital in Washington to have a Level IV NICU.

It's nice to know that this world-class hospital hasn't lost sight of its customer care. With all the interesting and exciting things that happen at Seattle Children’s, a simple operation like my daughter's appendectomy was still treated with importance and respect.

Angela Ziska, parent, Mukilteo, Washington

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