What is heart defect repair surgery?
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.
How do you prepare for surgery?
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.
Preparing for surgery
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options. Ask your child if they have any questions.
- Tell the doctor ALL the medicines and natural health products your child takes. Some may increase the risk of problems during the surgery. Your doctor will tell you if your child should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Talk to your child about the surgery. Be honest with them. Tell your child that the surgery will help their heart work better. Hospitals know how to take care of children. The staff will do all they can to make it easier for your child.
- You will get a tour of the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU). This may make your child feel less nervous about what happens.
- Plan for your child's recovery time. They may need more of your time right after the surgery, both for care and for comfort.
The day before surgery
- A nurse may call you (or you may need to call the hospital). This is to confirm the time and date of your child's surgery and answer any questions.
- Remember to follow your doctor's instructions about your child taking or stopping medicines before surgery. This includes over-the-counter medicines.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter W419 in the search box to learn more about "Heart Defect Repair Surgery: Before Your Child's Surgery".