Vascular Ring and Aortic Uncrossing Program
What to Expect

What to Expect at Your First Appointment with the Vascular Ring and Aortic Uncrossing Program

The purpose of your child’s first visit to the Vascular Ring and Aortic Uncrossing Program is to introduce you to care team members, review your child’s diagnosis and provide treatment recommendations. This visit—called a surgical evaluation—will last between one hour and several hours. 

Learning that your child may need cardiothoracic surgery can be stressful and overwhelming. We understand. Our doctors, surgeons, nurses and staff care about your child and your family. We will listen to your concerns and answer your questions. We want you and your child to feel comfortable. 

Below is information that explains how to prepare and what to expect at your first appointment. 

Making an Appointment

Most patients are referred to us by another Cincinnati Children’s doctor or a referring heart doctor or hospital. We also encourage parents and families to contact us on their own. We provide second opinions for children who may need heart or vascular surgery. 

Please contact us to make an appointment or learn about our second opinion process.

Our care team will review your child’s medical records and imaging tests before the first visit. This helps us ensure that the program is a good fit for your child. If it is, we will contact you to schedule the appointment. If your child needs additional tests or medical imaging, we will work with you to schedule those. These appointments may happen on the same day as your surgical evaluation.

Before Your Visit

If you are you traveling from another state or country, you may have questions about the area and local accommodations. Contact our concierge services for assistance.

Before Arriving for Your Initial Program Visit

Before the initial appointment, your child may do all activities as usual, including eating normally and taking regular medicines, unless directed otherwise.

Your child should wear comfortable clothing. Your child may need a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan on the same day as your visit. If this occurs, they should avoid wearing anything with metal (zippers, metal snaps, jewelry, hair bows, etc.).

Please arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment time. This will allow you to park, find the clinic and check in/register. If you are running late, please contact us

At the Appointment

Please bring:

  • Your health insurance card(s)
  • A photo ID, such as a driver’s license
  • Any medical records that you or the referring physician did not already provide (such as imaging studies on a CD)

After you park, enter the Critical Care Building (G6). 

When you arrive at the clinic, we will take you and your child to an exam room. A medical assistant will measure your child’s height and weight and take their vital signs. Then a nurse will talk with you about your child’s personal and family health history.

During the appointment, you and your child will meet one or more doctors, depending on your child’s needs. These physicians can include a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist, or ENT) and a gastroenterologist. These doctor(s) will talk with you about:

  • Your child’s lab and imaging results
  • Your child’s diagnosis
  • Treatment recommendations
  • Next steps, which may include additional testing or appointments with other specialists

If your child needs advanced imaging, labs or tests, our team can help schedule those quickly and conveniently.

Before you leave the clinic, we’ll provide an “After-Visit Summary.” This will include details about your child’s treatment plan, upcoming appointments, and a to-do list (if labs or imaging are needed). We will share a summary with your child’s referring physician as well.

Sometimes it takes a week or two for the care team to finalize a child’s treatment plan. This can occur when the care team needs to wait on additional test results or consult with other experts at Cincinnati Children’s. If this is the case with your child, we will let you know at your child’s first appointment. We will contact you when the final treatment plan is ready.

After the Appointment

We are here to provide you and your family with the support and information you need.

Please contact us if you have any questions after your appointment. You can also send us a message through your child’s MyChart account.

What to Expect from Our Heart Surgery Program

If your child’s treatment plan involves surgery, they are in good hands at Cincinnati Children’s. The Heart Surgery Program at Cincinnati Children’s offers world-class care from surgeons known around the world for their expertise. We perform complex procedures on people of all ages with congenital heart disease, from infants to adults.

Every year, our cardiothoracic surgeons perform an average of 600 procedures, including heart and lung transplants. Our experienced teams help keep children safe and have some of the highest survival rates in the country. We use the latest tools and technologies to plan your child’s surgery and deliver personalized, high-quality care.

Below is more information about what to expect if your child will be undergoing heart surgery at Cincinnati Children’s.

Preparing for Heart Surgery

One of our nurse coordinators will work with you and your family throughout the surgery planning process. The nurse coordinators will be your main points of contact. They will connect you with helpful resources, both inside and outside the hospital.

Your child’s surgeon and nurse practitioner or physician assistant will meet with you at the clinic before the surgery. They will help you understand your child’s upcoming surgical repair. They will provide pre-operative orientation and planning. The team will provide information about what to expect on the day of your child’s surgery and what it will be like while your child is in the hospital. We want to answer all of your questions. Please feel free to write down any questions or concerns prior to this appointment.

Typically, one to two days before your child’s surgery, you’ll meet with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant in the new Critical Care building (G6). They will talk to you about the day of the surgery and how to prepare for surgery. Your child will also have additional blood tests and imaging during this appointment.

If you are visiting from out of town, our Concierge Services can help. They can assist your family with lodging options, including discounted rates at area hotels. They also help with local transportation and discounted or complimentary tickets to area attractions.

On the Day of Heart Surgery

On the day of surgery, you and your child will return to G6, typically at 6 am. You can download our Caren app. This helps with directions to G6. The app can remind you where you parked.

Before heart surgery

Once you arrive, a nurse will help prepare your child for surgery. We will take vital signs and complete a thorough pre-op checklist. Parents may choose to have their child pre-treated for anxiety. You can stay in the pre-op room until your child goes to the operating room (OR). Your child can bring a comfort item into the OR. We place the item with them in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) room after surgery.

During heart surgery

Once your child is in the operating room, a specialized cardiac anesthesiologist uses anesthesia to put them to sleep. We keep them comfortable. They do not feel the surgery. A team of specially trained experts will care for your child during the procedure. The team includes their pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon, surgical fellows, advanced practice providers, operating room nurses, surgical assistants and perfusionists.

Preparation for heart surgery can take a long time. The procedure usually begins one and a half hours after your child enters the operating room. Our cardiothoracic surgery nurse coordinators will keep you updated during the procedure. They will let you know when surgery begins, how it is progressing and when it is complete. You can expect surgical updates about every 90 minutes.

After Heart Surgery

After surgery, your child will recover in the CICU, also on G6. The CICU team does rounds every morning. This is a good time to participate in your child’s care. To aid in recovery, your child will see various specialists. These include physical and occupational therapists, child life specialists and speech therapists.

Your child will move on to our Acute Care Cardiology stepdown unit. Here, we educate your family and prepare your child to go home.

Your child may go home in a few days to a week, depending on the surgery they received and their overall health. We will ensure you are comfortable with your child's post-operative care. This includes medication administration, wound care and activity restrictions.

Your child should see a heart doctor within a week to 10 days after surgery. This ensures a good recovery. The doctor takes images of your child’s heart. We have more than 25 convenient heart clinic locations in the Cincinnati region. You can schedule follow-up care close to home.

If you traveled to Cincinnati Children’s from outside the region or country, your child should see their referring doctor within 10 days after surgery. We consult with your child’s referring care team for ongoing, follow-up care.