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Your child needs surgery: Why pediatric expertise is important

At Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, one of our fundamental beliefs is that treating kids is different than treating adults, and that the best possible care only comes through specialized pediatric training.

Last week, I was quoted in a Wall Street Journal article on this very subject that also featured my colleague, Amy Wagner, MD. Surgeons across the country joined together and developed a new system to help parents identify the hospitals that are best equipped to deal with the broadest range of their children’s medical and surgical needs.

The highest level of designation, Level I Children’s Surgical Center, would be given to hospitals that deliver all types of care to newborns and children, including the most severe conditions that require extensive care.

Here is a more detailed look at the guidelines:

Level I

  • Able to provide comprehensive surgical care and perform both complex and noncomplex surgical procedures in newborns and children of all ages
  • Staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with credentialed pediatric specialists, including subspecialty surgeons, anesthesiologists, diagnostic and interventional radiologists, and emergency physicians
  • Has a Level IV (highest) NICU

Level II

  • Able to provide advanced surgical care for children of all ages, with surgery typically performed by a single surgical specialty
  • Personnel includes a certified pediatric surgeon, pediatric anesthesiologist and pediatric radiologist, with other pediatric specialists available for consultation
  • Has a Level III NICU or higher

Level III

  • Able to provide basic surgical care and perform common, low-risk surgical procedures in children older than 1 year
  • Personnel includes a general surgeon, anesthesiologist, radiologist and emergency physician, all of whom have pediatric expertise
  • Has a Level I NICU or higher

The reason for these changes goes beyond a mere ranking system. As the Journal article states, studies show that children who undergo surgery in hospitals with expert pediatric resources experience fewer complications, better survival rates and shorter hospital stays. But almost half of pediatric surgeries in the U.S. occur in adult-focused general hospitals, where there often are no dedicated pediatric personnel.

Our vision is that every child in the U.S. will receive surgical care that is matched to his or her individual needs.