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What to Expect If Your Child Needs a Heart Procedure

If your child needs advanced heart care, it can be a stressful time for the whole family. At Pediatric Heart Specialists (PHS), our heart experts are here to guide you every step of the way.

Our pediatric cardiologists and their teams offer complete nonsurgical care for children of all ages with any heart condition. If your child needs a more advanced procedure or surgery, we coordinate their care with heart specialists at Children’s Health in Dallas.

Referrals to expert care for children’s heart procedures

Our pediatric cardiologists diagnose and treat all kinds of heart diseases in children, including the most complex, critical congenital (present at birth) heart conditions. We provide ongoing care to manage your child’s heart health with tests and services in our offices at PHS.

For some heart conditions, children may need a diagnostic procedure or treatment that goes beyond our in-office care. In these cases, we refer your child to the heart surgeons, interventional cardiologists and cardiac imaging specialists at The Heart Center at Children’s Health. That means your child can quickly get the best possible care with pediatric heart experts right here in Dallas.

When might my child need advanced heart care?

We refer your child to heart specialists at Children’s Health if they need a diagnostic test or treatment that we cannot provide in our PHS offices. These procedures include:

  • Cardiac imaging. Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and chest X-rays are some types of specialized heart imaging.
  • Cardiac catheterization. This minimally invasive procedure uses thin, flexible tubes (catheters) to access the heart. Doctors use this technique to perform tests or
  • Heart surgery. The experienced pediatric heart surgeons at The Heart Center provide expert care for children with complicated heart conditions.

What to expect with outpatient procedures and heart surgery

When we refer your child to The Heart Center at Children’s Health, we:

  • Provide referrals to experienced pediatric heart surgeons and other specialists
  • Ensure that the hospital care team has access to your child’s electronic medical record (EMR) so they can see our
  • notes and your child’s test results, imaging and other details
  • Work closely with the care team to make diagnostic and treatment decisions for your child
  • Help you communicate with the care team about your child’s care
  • Provide comprehensive follow-up care for your child after the procedure or surgery

The hospital care team will provide details about what you need to do before, during and after your child’s heart procedure. In general, the steps of the process will include:

Pre-procedure visits with the Children’s Health care team

At the pre-procedure visits, the care team will talk with you about:

  • Any necessary tests or paperwork before the procedure
  • What time to arrive for the procedure
  • What time your child should stop eating or drinking the night before the procedure
  • Medications to continue or stop taking and when
  • What you can bring for your child and yourself

You may want to bring a binder or notebook and pen or pencil to write your questions in advance for the care team and then keep track of their instructions.

The procedure at The Heart Center at Children’s Health

The hospital care team will talk with you about what you need to do on the day of the procedure, how long to plan to be at the hospital and other key information. It’s a good idea to bring note-taking materials to keep track of the details.

At Children’s Health, child life specialists can meet with your child during the pre-procedure appointment or on the day of the procedure. These specialists help your child feel comfortable going into the procedure by explaining medical information and providing reassurance.

Items that you might want to bring for your child and yourself include:

For Infants:

  • Diapers, wipes and a change of clothes
  • Comfort items such as a stuffed animal, favorite toy or pacifier
  • Books that you can read to them

For children and teens:

  • A favorite toy or book
  • Coloring books, an iPad or other electronic device (with headphones), or other activities
  • A change of clothes, if needed

For yourself:

  • Reading material, laptop or other electronic device (with headphones), or other activities
  • Snacks and drinks from home or outside the hospital, if desired
  • Recovery and discharge after your child’s procedure

    Your child will be able to go home the same day after most tests and minimally invasive procedures (though surgery might require a hospital stay). The hospital care team will help you prepare to take care of your child at home afterward. In general, you can expect to:

    • Spend a short time (less than an hour) at Children’s Health as your child rests after their procedure before going home
    • Speak with the doctor or care provider about how the procedure went
    • Receive a discharge summary with care instructions and next steps in your child’s care, including follow-up appointments, medications or therapy
    • Hospital stay, if necessary

      If your child needs to stay overnight after a heart procedure or surgery, the care team will take them to a hospital room. Most often, the hospital care team encourages parents to stay with their children. Please review the current visiting hours and policies at Children’s Health, or check with the care team.

      Some additional items that you may want to bring for your child include:

      • Books that you can read to your child
      • Warm, soft, loose-fitting clothes, pajamas or a bathrobe, all with front snaps or buttons to manage wires and cords
      • Slippers or socks with rubber on the bottom to avoid slips
      • Anything your child loves to sleep with, such as a pillow, blanket or bedtime music
      • Schoolwork, if necessary
      • Toiletry items

      For yourself:

      • Warm clothes and pajamas
      • Toiletry items and medications
      • Laundry detergent and dryer sheets if you plan to do laundry

      Follow-up care at PHS after your child’s procedure

      Your child will typically see the Children’s Health doctor or surgeon for their first follow-up visit after a minimally invasive procedure or heart surgery. Your child will return to our PHS cardiologists for their ongoing follow-up care. We will see your child in our offices for regular checkups. Your child may occasionally need follow-up tests to monitor how well their heart is working after their procedure. These tests may include:

      • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): A painless, noninvasive test that measures your child’s heart rate and rhythm
      • Echocardiogram (echo): An ultrasound of the heart that shows how well your child’s heart is working

      Talking to your child about a medical procedure

      We have some suggestions to help you prepare your child for a procedure at the hospital:

      • If your child is old enough to understand, tell them in advance about the upcoming procedure. You can tell an older child earlier about the medical condition, procedures and other details. A younger child can be told a few days before the procedure.
      • Try to honestly answer your child's questions about the medical procedure. It can be helpful to explain what the child can expect while at the hospital.
      • For procedures and surgeries, reassure your child that you or another family member will be nearby while they are in the hospital to make sure they’re all right.
      • Pack some special items from home. Familiar objects will help your child feel more comfortable in a strange place. A favorite toy can serve as a security blanket and can go with your child into the procedure and recovery rooms.
      • Siblings may find a child's procedure almost as stressful as the patient does. A good way to ease their fears is to bring them with you on a visit to the hospital. Ask about – and correct – any misconceptions your children may have about a sibling's illness or hospital procedures. After the visit is over, set aside time for communication and activities with each child individually.
      • Our team is here to help you and your child, and Children’s Health has child life specialists who can visit your child. Ask the hospital care team for details.

      Frequently Asked Questions

      How soon can my child go back to school and other activities?

      Depending on the type of procedure your child has had, they might have some restrictions on exercise and other activities. The hospital care team and our pediatric cardiologists will provide specific instructions for your child. Here are our general recommendations if your child had:

      • An imaging study: Your child might be slightly tired for a day, but they can usually go back to school and other activities the day of their test or the next day.
      • A minimally invasive procedure: In most cases, your child can go back to school and their usual activities the day after their procedure.
      • Heart surgery: Your child can usually go back to school after their first postoperative visit with our pediatric cardiologists.
      • Who is my advocate while my child is in the hospital?

        Social workers from Children’s Health are available to advocate for your family’s values and concerns. They help the care team understand your family’s needs and coping strategies. Together with your social worker, you can create a plan for navigating these challenges.

        What can I do to help in my child's care?

        You and our medical experts are one team, helping your child on the journey to healing. That’s why we encourage you to participate in your child’s care through open communication with your child’s care team.

        Every person who assists in your child’s care will announce who they are and what they do. We want you to feel comfortable interacting with your child’s care team so you can advocate for your child’s needs and understand their care plan.

        You can share, with the bedside nurse, what daily activities you would like to do with your child, such as diaper changes or feedings. If you have questions or concerns or need to provide additional information, please share them with your child’s provider or nurse.

        Can you speak with my child’s school nurse about their medications?

        Yes, we can work with school nurses and other staff to explain your child’s medications. We can review the dosages and when to administer the medications to make sure your child excels in school while getting their medications as needed.

        Is there a local support group with other families like ours who are going through something similar?

        Mended Little Hearts is a support program for parents of children with congenital heart conditions and other heart diseases. The program is dedicated to inspiring hope in those who care for the littlest heart patients of all. Mended Little Hearts offers resources and a caring support network as families find answers and move forward to find healing and hope.

        As a chapter of the national organization, Mended Little Hearts of Dallas provides support to heart families in Dallas-Fort Worth and surrounding areas. The Dallas chapter offers resources, peer-to-peer support, monthly gatherings, hospital visits, Bravery Bags and other activities.

        Conquering Congenital Heart Disease supporting the comprehensive, lifelong needs of children with congenital heart disease and their families, providing knowledge, hope and a voice. The organization supports awareness, knowledge, community and research programming. Local activities include online chat networks, in-person peer support, social events, individualized care packages, physician education, and research promotion and participation.

        Social workers at The Heart Center at Children’s Health offer an in-person support group meeting every week for all inpatient heart families. Please check with the social workers for details and recommendations for other resources.