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. But some types of heart defects are repaired through an incision on the side of the chest between the ribs. 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 he or she fixes the defect.
After the doctor repairs the defect, he or she will use stitches or staples to close the incision in the chest.
Your child will probably spend about 1 week in the hospital. The amount of time your child needs to recover depends on the type of surgery he or she 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 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.
Having surgery can be stressful both for your child and for you. This information will help you understand what you can expect and how to safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: July 22, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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