Caring for Your Child after Heart Surgery
Caring for the Incision and Other Sites:
ξ Keep the incision and chest tube sites clean and dry.
ξ Clean incision with chlorhexidine swab and place new gauze dressing daily. Change
dressing and gauze if it becomes wet or soiled.
ξ Leave Steri-Strips in place until they peel or fall off on their own in 10-14 days.
ξ Apply a clean Band-Aid to the chest tube site and change daily until dry. Then, you
may leave it open to the air. If your child has a chest tube stitch, it will be removed at
your child’s first office visit.
ξ Starting the 4th day after surgery, your child may shower with the stream of water to the
back. Pat the incision dry before dressing.
ξ Do not soak the incision in the tub or go swimming for 2 weeks after surgery.
Do not use any creams, lotions, or perfumed soaps near wounds until Steri-Strips have
ξ Protect the wounds from any direct sunlight until they have faded (at least 6 months).
Use a sunscreen and t-shirt when outside.
Activity –The first 6 weeks after surgery
ξ Your child may be up and about as he is able. Encourage normal play with frequent rest.
ξ Young children should be lifted in a scooping motion with support for their bottoms.
Avoid lifting by the arms or under the armpits. This is mostly for comfort, but also it
helps the breast bone stay fixed in place as it heals.
ξ Your child may return to school or work after your first clinic visit and to daycare in 4
ξ Avoid running, climbing, or overuse of arms and shoulders.
ξ No bike riding, or wearing a backpack
ξ Your child may not take part in physical education or any contact sports
ξ Your child may go out for recess upon return to school, but should not be running,
climbing, or playing on any equipment.
ξ Your child may not lift greater than 8 pounds (a gallon of milk). Starting the 7th week
after surgery, the amount of weight your child may lift is increased from 8 pounds to 20
pounds for 6 more weeks. When 12 weeks have passed since surgery, your child may
resume normal activities.
ξ Do not allow your child to drive a car if he drives. As a passenger your child should be
in the back seat to avoid air bags.
ξ For infants: Breast feeding or formula with goal of __________________
ξ For children and young adults, restart the regular diet. Any other instructions will be
given to you before discharge.
Medicines: Please see your discharge medication sheet. No vaccines for 4 weeks after surgery
except for Synagis® (palivizumab).
When to Call the Doctor
Call Pediatric Cardiology at (608) 263-6420 if your child has
ξ Any questions about the wound
ξ Increased swelling around the wound
ξ Redness around the wound
ξ Drainage from the wound
ξ A fever over 101° F
ξ Takes less feedings
ξ Is irritable or more tired than usual
ξ Breathing problems
ξ Changes in skin color (gray, blue)
ξ Starts to sweat a lot
ξ Nausea, vomiting, or chest pain with breathing. This may be associated with your
child’s surgery and needs immediate follow up. This may occur in the first few days
up to six weeks after surgery.
After hours, nights, weekends, and holidays, please call (608) 262-0486. If you live out of the
area, call 1-800-323-8942. This will give you the paging operator. Ask for the pediatric
cardiologist on call. Give your name and phone number with the area code. The doctor will call
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 1/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5460