Going Home After Heart Surgery

Care of Your Child's Incision

If your incision has Dermabond (“glue”):

  • Keep incision dry. If it gets dirty, lightly clean with mild soap and water and pat dry.
  • May shower with shower stream of water hitting back.
  • No tub bath or swimming in pool.
  • Dermabond falls off in about two weeks.
  • After glue falls off, continue to clean incision with soap and water and pat dry.  

If your incision has Steri-Strips (white tapes):

  • Gently clean incision daily with soap and water and pat dry.
  • May shower with shower stream of water hitting back.
  • No tub bath or swimming in pool.
  • Steri-Strips fall off in about two weeks.
  • After Steri-Strips fall off, continue to clean incision with soap and water and pat dry. 

No creams, oils or ointments should be applied to incision.  

Check the incision daily for signs of infection: redness, swelling, drainage, or fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Call our office if any of these signs are noted.  

Chest tube sites may have stitches in place. The doctor will remove five to seven days after chest tubes removed. Clean old chest tube sites with mild soap and water and pat dry. Call the doctor for redness, swelling, drainage, or fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  

A healing skin is more sensitive to sun damage than normal skin. Clothing or a high SPF sun block should protect your child's incision when sun exposure cannot be avoided. These precautions should be taken as long as the scar looks pink (it will eventually return to normal skin color).

Infants

Your baby can take as much formula as he wants unless otherwise instructed. He may need extra calories because his heart may be working harder than most babies. If your baby needs a high-calorie formula, you will be given a recipe for the formula before going home. Limit feeding time to 30 minutes so your baby doesn't become overtired.

Toddlers, School-Aged Children, Adolescents and Adults

Follow a regular diet unless otherwise instructed. Encourage a balanced diet of foods that promote healing: meats, milk, bread products, fruits and vegetables. Call your doctor if unable to eat, nauseated / vomiting or weight loss.

Infants

Long bouts of crying may overstress your infant. Tend to your baby's needs quickly to prevent long periods of crying. Lift your infant by supporting his head and bottom with your hands for four weeks after surgery.

Toddlers, Preschoolers and School-Age Children

  • Most children will limit their own activity when tired.
  • Encourage your child to play or walk; inactivity is discouraged.
  • No activity that will put you at risk of a blow to the chest incision. No climbing, riding bicycles, roller skating, in-line skating, contact sports or gym class for about six weeks.
  • Avoid lifting over 10 pounds.
  • Climbing steps is not a problem.
  • May return to school in two weeks if “off pump” and six weeks “on pump” and no longer requires pain medicine.  

Adolescents and Adults

  • Return to work in six weeks, unless otherwise directed.
  • No driving for six weeks.
  • No activity that will put you at risk of a blow to the chest incision. No climbing, riding bicycles, roller skating, in-line skating, contact sports,
  • May walk; take rests when tired.
  • Climbing steps is not a problem.
  • Avoid lifting over 10 pounds.
  • Avoid smoking.

Due to your child's hospitalization and surgery, it is not unusual for him to go back to earlier childhood behaviors such as: bedwetting, awakening during the night, fussiness, nightmares, clinging to parents, etc.

These behaviors usually go away within a short period of time. It is important to support your child during this stressful time but also to set appropriate limits.

Your child should not attend school or day care until after his follow-up appointment.

Children should not receive most immunizations for at least six weeks after surgery. If your child has received blood products while hospitalized, a longer wait may be necessary.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations in The Red Book for immunizing children who have received blood transfusions. Ask your pediatrician or call our office if you have questions about specific immunizations.

Most children with heart defects require antibiotics prior to and after dental procedures to prevent infection.

Be sure to talk to your dentist and cardiologist regarding your child's dental care. Good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are important since tooth decay can lead to heart infection.

The cardiothoracic surgery fellow or the cardiology fellow on call are available 24 hours a day at 513-636-4200 or 1-800-344-CHMC.

Call if your child has two or more of the following:

  • Rapid, heavy breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Unable to drink bottle for two feedings in a row
  • Puffiness of the eyes or face
  • Extreme irritability
  • Blueness of the skin
  • Fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Drainage from incision or incision red and swollen
  • Cardiothoracic Surgery Office: 513-636-4770
    Office hours 8:30 am-5 pm; voicemail after hours.
  • Cardiothoracic Nurse Practitioners: 513-636-4770
    Same hours as above.
  • Hospital operator (5 pm-8:30 am): 513-636-4200 or 1-800-344-CHMC
    Ask for cardiology fellow on call.
  • Cardiology Clinic: 513-636-4432
    Hours 8:30 am-5 pm; voicemail after hours.

Last Updated 08/2013