Cochlear Implant Surgery for Children: What to Expect at Home

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Your Child's Recovery

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help with hearing for a child with severe or total hearing loss. The implant does the job of damaged or missing nerves. A small device worn outside the ear turns on the implant. The doctor made a cut, called an incision, behind your child's ear. The doctor placed the implant in the inner ear.

Your child may have mild to moderate pain and have a headache for a few days. He or she may have some popping or clicking in the ear and feel dizzy. This usually goes away within 1 week. The area behind the ear will be swollen for about 3 to 5 weeks.

Some children say that things taste different or funny for a few days. They may also have a sore throat. This is common.

The doctor will not turn on, or activate, the implant until the incision has healed. This is in about 3 to 6 weeks. Most children can go back to school or daycare after 1 week, but they should not take part in sports or other strenuous activities for about 3 to 4 weeks. Talk to your doctor about how active your child can be.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. 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

  • Your child may want to spend the first few days in bed. When your child is ready and your doctor says it is okay, he or she can begin playing again. Encourage quiet indoor play for the first 3 to 5 days.
  • Your child will probably be able to go back to school or daycare after about 1 week. He or she should not go to PE or gym class or take part in sports for about 3 to 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • For about 3 to 4 weeks, do not let your child play hard. Take care that your child does not do anything that would turn him or her upside down, such as playing on monkey bars or doing somersaults. Also avoid bike riding, running, or other sports until your doctor says it is okay.

Diet

  • Your child can eat normally. If he or she complains of an upset stomach, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

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.
  • Make sure that your child takes pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it to your child as prescribed.
    • Talk to your doctor about over-the-counter medicine. Do not use ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) without your doctor's okay, because it may increase the chance of bleeding. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • If you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to his or her stomach:
    • Give the medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain 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 the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • Your child may have a bandage over the incision. You can remove the bandage 2 or 3 days after surgery or when the doctor says it is okay.
  • After you remove the bandage, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Other instructions

  • Do not let your child blow his or her nose. Tell your child not to try to stop a sneeze or a cough. Tell your child to open his or her mouth to sneeze or cough.

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 your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

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

  • Your child has a fever with a stiff neck or a severe headache.
  • 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.
  • Your child bleeds through the bandage.
  • Your child seems to be getting sicker.

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

  • Your child is not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 29, 2016