When Kids Need Surgery

Ask the Experts

Muratore Christopher S. Muratore, MD, FACS, FAAP
Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery 
Stony Brook Children's Hospital

Pediatric surgery is a unique medical specialty, provided by highly skilled general surgeons further trained in the intricacies of treating smaller patients, including those not yet born. Christopher S. Muratore, MD, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery, discusses the reasons why parents should seek out a pediatric surgeon should their child require a surgical procedure.

Why should a child who needs surgery see a pediatric surgeon? 
Pediatric surgeons are specially trained to treat the unique needs of children. They have expertise in treating birth defects and detecting abnormalities before birth that may require surgical intervention. They are skilled in trauma surgery, a key reason why kids need surgery. And they understand the special emotional needs of children. In fact, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Pediatric Surgical Association have a policy statement saying that when a surgical condition has been identified in a child, ideally a pediatric surgeon will address it.

Do all hospitals that treat children have pediatric surgeons?
Unfortunately no. More often than not, even in hospitals with a pediatric department, doctors who typically perform surgery on adult patients will also operate on children. They may use adult-sized instruments on a child, administer anesthesia in a way that isn’t optimum for a child’s physiology, or not use minimally invasive procedures. And that can lead to unnecessary discomfort and longer recovery times.

What kind of training do pediatric surgeons have?
All of the pediatric surgeons at Stony Brook Children’s are board certified and have completed residency training in general surgery plus additional fellowship training in pediatric surgery. Each of our team’s surgeons meets all the rigorous standards of training required of pediatric surgeons as defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Surgeons and the American Board of Surgery.

What types of procedures do your pediatric surgeons perform?
Everything from the most common to the highly complex. Virtually every day we repair a hernia, remove an appendix or excise a tumor. We take care of tiny newborns with conditions that require immediate intervention, and even have the capability to perform in utero surgeries. We do minimally invasive procedures through keyhole incisions as well as traditional surgeries. And, since Stony Brook is the only verified Level 1 pediatric trauma center in Suffolk, we’re also the place where children who have been injured, have fallen, suffered severe burns or been in a car or boat accident are brought for care.

How many pediatric surgeons are at Stony Brook Children’s?
We have a team of five surgeons supported by two dedicated pediatric nurse practitioners. Each of our surgeons has both general and specialized skills. Having a team of this size with these skills enables us to treat all types of cases and be available to perform emergency surgery on pediatric trauma patients as well.

How do you help children prepare for surgery?
All of our pediatric surgeons as well as our support staff are trained to help lessen children’s anxiety and keep them calm and comfortable. The hospital has a team of Child Life Specialists who are experts at explaining procedures to children, distracting them and minimizing any emotional disturbance. Child Life Specialists also use a “kitten scanner”—one of only three in the entire Northeast—which lets kids perform a pretend CAT scan on a toy to help them prepare for their own scans. There’s also an online pre-surgical tour that shows children and their parents what they can expect.

Do you work with other pediatric specialists?
Our approach is team-focused, meaning we collaborate with all other pediatric specialists as needed to ensure the best outcome for the child. For example, we work closely with pediatric anesthesiologists who are trained to prevent and treat pain in kids.

Will your surgeons consult with my child’s pediatrician?
Yes. Regardless of who or where your child’s primary care physician is, we make sure communications are open and that your child’s doctor is kept informed every step of the way. And because we have a team of five surgeons, we are also able to see patients in our offices in Commack, East Setauket, Smithtown and Riverhead—so wherever you are on Long Island we’re not far away.

For more information about Stony Brook Children’s Division of Pediatric Surgery, call (631) 444-4545 or visit stonybrookchildrens.org.

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