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Nissen Fundoplication in Children: What to Expect at Home

Location of esophagus and stomach, with detail of how they look before and after surgery

Your Child's Recovery

Your child may be sore and have some pain in his or her belly for several weeks after surgery. If your child had laparoscopic surgery, he or she also may have pain near the shoulder for a day or two.

It may be hard for your child to swallow and burp for up to 6 weeks after the surgery. Your child may also have belly cramps, feel bloated, or pass more gas than before. The cramping and bloating usually go away in 2 to 3 months. But your child may pass more gas for a long time.

Because the surgery makes the stomach a little smaller, your child may get full sooner when eating. In 2 to 3 months, the stomach adjusts and your child will be able to eat his or her usual amounts of food.

How quickly your child recovers depends on whether he or she had a laparoscopic or open surgery. After laparoscopy, most children can go back to their normal routine in about 2 to 3 weeks. After open surgery, children may need 4 to 6 weeks to get back to their normal routine.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?

Activity

  • Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
  • Allow your child's belly to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy for about 2 weeks, or 4 to 6 weeks if your child had an open surgery.
  • Don't allow your child to do sit-ups or any exercise or activity that uses the belly muscles.
  • Don't let your child take part in any activity where he or she could be hit in the belly. Your child can do his or her normal activities when it feels okay to do so.
  • Have your child hold a pillow over the incisions when he or she coughs or takes deep breaths. This will support the belly and may help to decrease pain.

Diet

  • For the first week, give your child a liquid or soft diet. This includes broths, soups, milk shakes, puddings, and mashed potatoes. When your child can eat these, give your child other foods that are easy to swallow, such as ground meat, shredded chicken, fish, pasta, and soft vegetables.
  • Have your child eat 5 or 6 small meals each day instead of 2 or 3 large meals.
  • Have your child chew each bite of food very well. Encourage your child to eat slowly. He or she may need to take 20 to 30 minutes to eat a meal.
  • Avoid crusty breads, bagels, pizza, tough meats like hot dogs, raw vegetables, nuts and seeds (including crackers and breads that have nuts and seeds), and other foods that are hard to digest.
  • If your child feels full quickly, try to give fluids between meals instead of with meals.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, such as soda pop.
  • Avoid drinking with straws. This may help your child swallow less air when he or she drinks.
  • Gradually return to your child's normal foods. This usually takes 4 to 6 weeks.
  • 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.

Medicines

  • 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 the doctor prescribed antibiotics for your child, give them as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • If your child has strips of tape on the cut (incision) the doctor made, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Hygiene

  • Your child may shower. Pat the incision dry. Your child should not swim or take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until the doctor tells you it is okay.

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 or nurse call line 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 you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.

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

  • Your child is sick to his or her stomach and can't keep fluids down.
  • Your child has pain that does not get better after you give him or her pain medicine.
  • Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Your child cannot pass stools or gas.

Watch closely for any 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 https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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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.