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Childhood Surgery Discussion with Dr. Clint Cappiello

July 25, 2019
If your child needs surgery, Dr. Clint Cappiello, Johns Hopkins pediatric surgeon at GBMC, has a word of advice: “If you suspect there’s something wrong, don’t go on the Internet and get yourself in a panic. Come see us instead.”

Dr. Cappiello performs general surgery on babies, children, and teens for a wide range of health issues, from hernias and appendicitis, which are some of the most common conditions he treats, to less common conditions such as pectus excavatum, a congenital condition that causes the ribs and breastbone to grow inward. Many patients come through the emergency department, but others are referred by their pediatricians. “In cases where it’s not an emergency, your pediatrician should be your first stop,” he explains. “They know which conditions require surgery and which can be managed medically. They’re our partners in caring for your child.”

When a child does need surgery, he or she will be cared for by a team that specializes in treating children, including a certified child life specialist, pediatric anesthesiologist, and pediatric nurses and surgeons.

“We try to take as much stress as possible out of the experience of surgery for our patients and their parents,” Dr. Cappiello says. “In non-emergency situations, a certified child life specialist meets with the child and family in the pre-op area to explain the process and answer questions, then the child walks to the OR with his or her parents and receives anesthesia through a mask. Once they’re asleep, we place the IV and do the other preparations needed for surgery. This approach helps minimize the patient’s anxiety and discomfort.”

Dr. Cappiello also discussed the signs of appendicitis parents should know, why the problem is so common, and why children recover from surgery much faster than adults. “Unlike adults, children listen to their bodies and don’t push themselves too hard,” he explains.

He adds, “I’m meeting parents on their worst day, so I make sure I always stop and listen to what they’re worried about. Then I can respond to their concerns and take them off the table, putting them a little more at ease on a tough day.”

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