When you have heart surgery at Cincinnati Children’s, you will work with our Heart Surgery team. You may hear us refer to one another as the CTS team. CTS stands for “Cardiothoracic Surgery.”

A CTS nurse coordinator will work with you and your family through the surgery planning process. The nurse coordinators will be your main point of contact and can help connect you with helpful resources while you’re here, both inside and outside of the hospital.

We want to make your experience as easy as possible throughout the whole process. We have a number of resources and amenities to help you with the logistics of your visits, so you can focus on the care of your child. Some of these include:

  • The Caren app: Use this app to find appointment locations, track your parking spot and more.
  • Concierge Services: For out-of-town families, this resource can help before you travel and after you and your family arrive. They can assist your family with lodging options, including discounted rates at area hotels and if the Ronald McDonald House might be an option for you, as well as with local transportation and discounted or complimentary tickets to area attractions.

How to Prepare for Your Visit

Typically a patient is referred to our Heart Surgery team by another Cincinnati Children’s service or by an outside cardiologist or hospital, or is chosen by family for a second opinion.

If the patient has not seen a cardiologist before, we will start by scheduling an appointment a cardiologist at one of our more than 25 outpatient locations. We may also work with you to schedule other appropriate testing or imaging appointments so we can fully understand the heart condition(s) prior to your appointment with the cardiologist. Types of imaging and test results often needed include:

  • Echocardiogram
  • CT scan
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Chest X-ray

Additional tests may be ordered as needed.

Weekly Case Management Conference

After your appointment, we will discuss your background and test results at our Joint Heart Program weekly Case Management Conference. This meeting brings together specialists from the Joint Heart Program to consider all treatment options and develop an individualized care plan designed for the best outcome.

After the conference, one of our cardiologists will inform you or your referring cardiologist of the results of our discussion and to talk about options. Often, the referring cardiologist is at this meeting and will contact you afterward.

If surgery is the recommended next step, a scheduler will reach out to you to schedule surgery and a consult visit with one of our internationally renowned heart surgeons.

Surgery Consult Appointment

This appointment will be scheduled with the surgeon who will be doing the procedure and one of our nurse practitioners.

During this clinic visit, the surgeon will assess the patient, and you will receive information on what to expect on the day of surgery and while in the hospital. You may be able to complete pre-op lab work at this time to avoid another visit to the hospital. You’ll also have the opportunity to discuss the surgery with the surgeon and ask any questions you may have.

  • Some of your questions about specific conditions/surgeries may be answered when you view our surgical videos. Links to these can be found under Conditions and Treatments.

What should you bring: The patient will need to attend this appointment. Bring any questions you have with you. Be prepared to schedule the surgery soon after this appointment, if it hasn’t already been scheduled. Also be prepared to possibly have more studies or lab work done. However, most of these visits with the surgeon are mainly informational.

Before Surgery

Prior to the scheduled surgery date, we will obtain any pre-op labs, clearances or additional imaging that is needed.

Patients are asked to arrive for pre-admission testing 1-2 days before surgery. At this appointment, you will meet with a nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA) for an initial assessment. They’ll review with you the flow for the day of surgery—such as when and where to arrive, eating instructions, etc.—and discuss any further questions. Patients will then go to the lab for pre-op labs and X-ray. Often additional imaging or labs are needed on this day as well.

Day of Surgery

  • You will report to Same Day Surgery, Location B3, where you will be prepped for surgery with a peripheral intravenous line (PIV) and assessment. You can download our Caren app to help you with directions to B3 and to remind you where you parked.
  • The operating room (OR) team will let you know when they’re ready, and will let the family know where to wait during surgery.
  • Once in the OR, a cardiac anesthesiologist will place the patient under anesthesia. The procedure usually begins about 1-1/2 to 2 hours after the patient arrives in the OR. If cardiac bypass is needed, our cardiac perfusionists will run the machine.
  • CTS nurse coordinators will provide updates to the family throughout the entire procedure, and alongside the surgeon once surgery is complete.

After Surgery

The patient will recover in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU), and family will be able to visit once the patient is settled and all post-op imaging is complete.

Each patient’s surgeon is involved in performing rounds on the patient twice a day, and in any decisions or changes in care until they are discharged home.

Follow-up After Surgery

Patients will return to your cardiologist after a few weeks post-op to assess your progress and receive post-op imaging at that time. You will not follow up with the surgery team unless there is cause for concern.

Follow-up care can be scheduled at one of our more than 25 pediatric and adult congenital heart clinic locations. Some patients may be able to use our telehealth services.

Heart Surgery Team Member Roles

In addition to the surgeon, several other team members will help in your care before, during and after surgery. Some of those you may come in contact with include the following:

  • CTS Coordinators
    • Point person for the entire Heart Surgery team
    • Responsible for referrals to the team, ensuring patients are scheduled for consults/surgery, follow-up on any pre-op work needed before entering the operating room, updating families of patients every 1 to 1-1/2 hours while the patient is in the OR, and monitoring each patient while in the CICU after surgery
    • The Heart Surgery CTS Coordinators are:
      • Melissa Hagenmaier, RN, BSN
      • Kelsey Donovan, RN, BSN
      • Demi Waid, RN, BSN
  • Advanced Practice Provider team (nurse practitioners, physician assistants, fellows)
    • Responsible for assessment and education at clinic and pre-op visits, scrubbing in and assisting the surgeon with each surgery case, follow-up on patients after surgery
  • Cardiac Anesthesiology
    • Responsible for administering anesthesia and monitoring any cardiac patient throughout the entire hospital; our anesthesiologists have specialized expertise in pediatric anesthesia as well as a custom approach to congenital heart patients
  • Child Life
    • Most often used after surgery, but sometimes called in if a child needs assistance or distraction for pre-op line placement or studies
  • Social Work
    • Called upon if a family is coming from out of town and needs assistance with transportation, hotel stays, etc., while inpatient