Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Cardiac Catheterization to Repair a Heart Defect in Children: What to Expect at Home

Main Content

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

Your Child's Recovery

A congenital heart defect is a problem with how a child's heart formed. The doctor repaired your child's heart defect by putting a thin tube, called a catheter, into the heart through a blood vessel. The catheter may have been put into a blood vessel in the groin, neck, or other place on your child's body.

Your child may have a bruise or a small lump where the catheter was put in (the catheter site). The area may feel sore for a few days 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 repair the problem. And your child may need to take medicines and see a heart doctor throughout life.

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?


  • Allow your child to slowly become more active. Have your child rest as much as needed. Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night.
  • 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. This may be for several days. 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.
  • Until the doctor says it is okay, your child should avoid lifting anything that would make your child strain. This may include heavy milk containers, a heavy backpack, or a medium-sized pet.
  • 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.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after the procedure. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor or nurse advice line.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart any medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take pain medicine exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it to your child 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 you think the pain medicine is making your child sick to the stomach:
    • Have your child take the medicine after meals (unless the doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your child's 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 your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your child takes a blood thinner, be sure to get instructions about how to give this medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.
  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with their medicine.

Care of the catheter site

  • For the first day or for as long as your doctor recommends, keep a bandage over the spot where the catheter was put in.
  • You can put ice or a cold pack on the catheter site for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Do this every few hours. 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 your child's doctor or nurse advice line 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 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 trouble breathing.
  • Your child is bleeding a lot from the catheter site.

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

  • Your child is dizzy or light-headed.
  • Your child has severe pain where the catheter was put in, or the area becomes cold, pale, blue, tingly, or numb.
  • Your child has swelling and a lump that is getting bigger under the skin at the catheter site.
  • Your child is sick to the stomach or cannot keep fluids down.
  • Your child has pain that does not go away after you give your child 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 advice line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter S578 in the search box to learn more about "Cardiac Catheterization to Repair a Heart Defect in Children: What to Expect at Home".

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.