Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery (VATS) in Children: What to Expect at Home
Your Child's Recovery
VATS is a way to do surgery inside the chest using several small cuts (incisions) instead of one larger incision (open surgery). The doctor may have used VATS to treat a problem in your child's chest.
Your child's chest may be sore where the doctor made the cuts and put in the surgical tools. This usually gets better after 2 to 3 weeks.
Your child will have stitches, staples, or a special glue in the cuts. The stitches may be the type that dissolve in the body over time. If not, the doctor will take them out 1 to 2 weeks after surgery.
The amount of time your child will need to recover depends on the surgery he or she had. But your child probably will need to take it easy at home for a couple of weeks.
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?
- Have your child rest when he or she feels tired.
- Allow your child's body to heal. Don't let your child move quickly or lift anything heavy until he or she is feeling better.
- Have your child do breathing exercises at home if instructed by your doctor. This will help prevent pneumonia.
- Your child can do his or her normal activities when it feels okay to do so.
- Many children are able to return to normal activities within a few weeks after surgery.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing.
- Change the bandage every day.
- Wash the area daily with warm water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing.
- Your child may shower 24 to 48 hours after surgery. 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 advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) 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 chest pain, is short of breath, or coughs up blood.
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has pain that does not get better after he or she takes pain medicine.
- Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
- Your child is bleeding through the bandage.
- Your child can't keep down fluids.
- Your child has a new or worse cough.
- Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have questions.
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & David C. Stuesse MD - Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine