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A congenital heart defect is a problem with how a child's heart formed. The defect can affect how blood flows through the heart or blood vessels. The heart may have a hole between its chambers, or a valve or artery may not have formed the right way. Or a heart valve, artery, or chamber may not have formed at all.
The type of surgery your child has will depend on the type of defect.
The doctor will make a cut (incision) in your child's chest. The incision usually is made through the breastbone (sternum) and is called a sternotomy. But some types of heart defects are repaired through an incision on the side of the chest between the ribs, called a thoracotomy. During the surgery, the doctor may connect your child to a machine that does the jobs of the heart and lungs (heart-lung bypass machine). This machine will allow the doctor to stop your child's heartbeat while the repair is done. If a heart-lung bypass machine is used during surgery, the doctor will restart your child's heartbeat and stop the heart-lung machine after they fix the defect.
After the doctor repairs the defect, stitches are used to close the incision in the chest.
Your child will probably spend up to 1 week in the hospital. The amount of time your child needs to recover depends on the type of surgery they had.
Having a child with a heart problem can be scary. You may feel overwhelmed. Learning as much you can about your child's treatment can help you feel better. You may also want to talk with other parents who have a child with similar problems.
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.
Surgery can be stressful for both your child and you. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your child's surgery.
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Adaptation Date: 4/9/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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