In general, problems that can be corrected without the use of heart-lung bypass support may involve a shorter hospitalization and recovery time. Clearly, the length of recovery will depend partly on potential complications that may arise and partly on the health of the patient before surgery. A six- to eight-week recovery period is not uncommon. Nutrition is a critical component of this recovery period as well.
After surgery, most infants can be fed enterally (in the gut) after a day or two. But even when the child is not being fed formula or milk, nutrition is being delivered in an intravenous (IV) form. In more limited situations, simple IV fluids containing sugar-water will suffice. At other times, the IV nutrition can replace all the sugars, proteins and fats that the patient needs. That complex form of IV nutrition is called TPN (total parenteral nutrition).
Some babies can take a while to recover after surgery until they can be fed by mouth. This partly depends on how the child was feeding before surgery and whether there are any medical reasons affecting the ability of the gut to work. It is not unusual for even some kids who have been feeding normally before surgery to have a setback. They might require some sort of extra nutritional support. Nutrition is critical in the healing process. At times we place tubes, called feeding tubes, into the stomach (through the mouth or the nose) to make sure your child receives adequate calories to heal properly.
Often children are discharged home on some medications. Typically these include diuretics (water pills) and sometimes other heart medications. The dosage of these medications will be adjusted when you follow-up with your surgeon and cardiologist. Most patients are seen within a week to two weeks after discharge. We will provide you with a set of instructions before your discharge to guide you on your child's medicines and postoperative care. We will teach you how to assess the wounds and what problems to look for.
You should use common sense when your child is discharged home. Sick people should not visit for the first few days. Good and frequent hand washing is critical, especially before examining the wound. The wound should be kept clean and dry for the first couple of weeks. Generally we recommend avoiding immunizations within the first six to eight weeks after surgery.
Finally, as with any surgical incision, a rest period helps ensure good wound healing. There will be a period of time when activity will be somewhat restricted to help with healing.