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Cardiac Catheterization to Repair a Heart Defect in Children: What to Expect at Home

The heart

Your Child's Recovery

A congenital heart defect is a problem with how a child's heart formed. The doctor fixed your child's heart defect by putting a thin tube, called a catheter, into the heart through a blood vessel. This is most often put through a blood vessel in the groin.

Your child may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in your child's groin (the catheter site). The area may feel sore for a day or two after the procedure. Your child may need more sleep than usual for a few days.

This procedure can be stressful for you and your child. Your child's recovery will depend on the type of heart defect your child had. Your child may need more than one procedure or surgery to fix the problem. And your child may need to take medicines and see a heart doctor throughout life. But many children lead a normal, active life after the defect is fixed.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Following the steps below can help your child recover as quickly as possible. Your child's doctor also will give you care instructions.

How can you care for your child at home?


  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
  • Allow the area to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy until he or she is feeling better.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games or contact sports, or take part in gym class until your doctor says it is okay. It is okay for your child to walk and play with other children or play with toys.
  • Until your doctor says it is okay, your child should not do activities that could cause a blow to the chest, such as wrestling or playing catch with a ball.
  • Your doctor will tell you when your child can go back to school or daycare. Your child will probably have to spend at least 1 day at home.
  • For about 1 week, keep your child away from large crowds and people that you know have a cold or influenza (flu). This lowers your child's chance of getting an infection.


  • Your child can eat a normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • If your child's bowel movements are not regular right after surgery, you can help him or her to avoid constipation and straining. Have your child drink plenty of water. The doctor may suggest fibre, a stool softener, or a mild laxative.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, be sure your child takes them as directed. Your child should not stop taking them just because he or she feels better. Your child needs to take all the antibiotics.
  • If your child takes a blood thinner, be sure to get instructions about how to take this medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Care of the catheter site

  • Your child will have a dressing over the site where the catheter was put in. A dressing helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the site for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when your child is awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Your child can shower 1 to 2 days after the procedure. Avoid soaking the catheter site in water until the area is healed. This includes keeping your child out of bathtubs and swimming pools.
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood on the bandage can be normal.
  • If your child is bleeding, have your child lie down and press on the area for 15 minutes to try to make it stop. If the bleeding does not stop, call the doctor or seek immediate medical care.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is bleeding a lot from the catheter site.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed.
  • Your child has severe pain in his or her groin or leg where the catheter was put in, or the area becomes cold, pale, blue, tingly, or numb.
  • Your child's groin is very swollen and there is a lump that is getting bigger under your child's skin at the catheter site.
  • Your child is sick to his or her stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • Your child has pain that does not go away after you give him or her pain medicine.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.