Before the Surgery
Before the procedure, you and your child will meet with an anesthesiologist. You will be asked questions about your child's heart history, allergies, medications and other health issues. In particular, it is important to let the anesthesiologist know of any previous problems with anesthesia and recent illnesses.
Before going to sleep for a procedure, many children are sedated with a medication that can be taken by mouth. This helps to relax the child, make the separation process from the parents smoother, and often provides amnesia so the child does not remember the experience.
During the Surgery
In most children, general anesthesia is usually started by breathing anesthetic gas through a mask. In older children, general anesthesia may be started intravenously (IV).
For most procedures, a breathing tube will be placed after your child is asleep and your child will be on a ventilator during the procedure. The specific anesthetic agents your child receives will depend on your child's heart disease, the procedure performed, and whether continued sedation and mechanical ventilation will be required after the operation.
After the Surgery
If a heart-lung bypass machine is used, most children are kept sedated with a breathing tube in place for a period of time after the procedure. These patients are cared for in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) by a team of physicians and nurses.
During this time, the treatment of pain remains a high priority. Some children are kept on a continuous infusion of pain medicine, while others are given pain medications as needed. In older children, a computerized patient-controlled analgesic (PCA) pump may be used to help control pain.