Heart Surgery: What to Expect
Preparing for your child’s heart surgery can be a stressful time for a family but knowing what to expect can help put you and your child at ease. The information below can help you prepare for your child’s visit.
Before Your Child’s Surgery
Before your child’s surgery is scheduled, you will meet with the heart surgeon and heart surgery team. During this appointment:
- We will take a full history and your child will have a physical exam.
- Your child’s surgeon will review his or her diagnosis, and we will discuss all the details of your child’s surgery with you, including projected length of stay.
- You may be asked to sign a few different types of forms, including surgical consent and consent for blood products.
- We will schedule both your child’s surgery and the date for the pre-admission testing (PAT) appointment.
- Before the PAT appointment, a member of the admissions department may contact you for personal and insurance information and to advise you on any applicable payments for the day of surgery.
Pre-Admission Testing Appointment
On the day of your child’s PAT appointment, please go to the Surgery Registration area on the second floor of the main hospital.
We recommend parking in the Outpatient Care Center (OCC) parking garage. The OCC is located at 601 Fifth Street S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Click here for directions.
During this appointment:
- You and your child will meet the pre-admission nurse, a Child Life Specialist and see some familiar faces from the cardiovascular surgery team. Your child’s chart will be reviewed so he or she can be cleared for surgery.
- We will perform any pre-admissions testing that was ordered by your child’s surgeon. These tests could include lab work, EKG, ECHO and X-rays. The Child Life specialist will be available for these tests to help you and your child.
- We will review your signed consent forms. If consent was not obtained during the initial consultation, we will obtain it during this appointment.
- We will provide your child with a blood band to wear around his or her wrist. The blood band shows important information for the care team, like your child’s blood type. The blood band should not be removed or get wet before the day of surgery.
- We will confirm your arrival time for the day of surgery.
Day of Surgery
To help make sure your child is ready for anesthesia on the day of surgery, follow our “nothing by mouth” guidelines (NPO):
- Six days before surgery: Stop all aspirin or ibuprofen.
- Midnight before surgery: Stop all solid food, including candy, gum and mints.
- Six hours before surgery: Stop infant formula or milk for children under 2 years of age.
- Four hours before surgery: Stop breast milk.
- Three hours before surgery: Stop clear liquids, including water, clear apple juice, Pedialyte, popsicles, gelatin or soda.
- If your child is on tube feedings, please refer to instructions from the pre-admission nurse.
The most important thing to remember is to make sure your child does not eat or drink anything too close to surgery. Not having an empty stomach when receiving anesthesia may result in complications.
If your child does have something to eat or drink the day of surgery, or has not followed the NPO guidelines, let the pre-operative team know right away by calling the Perianesthesia Care Unit at 727-767-8717.
Parking and registration:
On the day of surgery, arrive at the time that was set during the Pre-Admission Testing appointment. We again recommend that you park in the Outpatient Care Center (OCC) parking garage. The OCC is located at 601 Fifth Street S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701. Click here for directions.
From the parking garage, go to the second floor of the OCC lobby, and stop at the information desk and greeter station to receive a visitor badge.
From there, you can use the walkway on the second floor to go to Surgery Registration on the second floor of the main hospital. When you arrive at Surgery Registration:
- You will sign in, complete final paperwork and make any applicable payments.
- Your child will receive his or her patient identification bracelet and will then be taken to the Cardiac Preoperative (Pre-op) Unit. Two adults may enter this unit with the child.
Cardiac Pre-op Unit and Operating Room:
Your child will change into a hospital gown, have his or her vital signs taken and medical history reviewed. He or she will be seen by the surgical team, including nurses and the pediatric anesthesiologist. We will also obtain and verify your cell phone number so that you may be updated during the operation.
During this time, a Child Life specialist may be available to help your child understand what to expect. They might play and practice using medical equipment on a toy or share different ways to help your child feel more comfortable.
Once we’ve completed the pre-op exam, we’ll take your child to the operating room (OR) and guide you to the consultation room. At this time, the anesthesiologist is with your child and preparing them for surgery. The surgeon will meet with you in this room to answer any last-minute questions you may have, before the surgeon goes to the operating room.
After speaking to the surgeon, you may wait in the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) waiting room right outside the consultation room. You may also go to the cafeteria.
During the operation, the OR team will provide you and your family with frequent updates. If you have any questions or concerns in the waiting area, please pick up the phone on the wall by the door to speak with our family coordinator.
Once the operation is complete, the surgeon will come speak to you to provide a formal update and answer any questions you may have.
Your child will be transported to the CVICU. You will be notified when he or she is ready to be visited, typically 1-2 hours after surgery.
Care After Surgery
While your child is receiving care after surgery in the CVICU, he or she will be treated by a multidisciplinary team led by the cardiac intensivist, cardiologist, and heart surgeon. Your child will also be taken care of by cardiac trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants, bedside nurses and patient care technicians.
Other aspects of your child’s care may include pharmacy, dietary and nutrition, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social work and Child Life.
After discharge from the hospital, your child will follow up with his or her cardiologist. This appointment will be scheduled before your child leaves the hospital.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my child is sick before the surgery?
Anesthesia is safest when your child is as healthy as he or she can be. We try not to give anesthesia to children when they are sicker than usual. However, we know some children are having surgery because they are frequently sick and the goal of the surgery is to fix the problem.
If your child is sick the week of surgery, please call your surgeon. We may ask you to see your primary care physician. If you still have questions, please call the Perianesthesia Care Unit at 727-767-8717.
What time should we arrive on the day of surgery?
Please make sure you arrive at the time set during your child’s Pre-Admission Testing appointment. If you have questions before the day of your child’s surgery about what time to arrive, please call 727-767-6666.
What should we bring with us on the day of surgery?
On the day of surgery, please bring:
- Photo identification
- Insurance information
- Other forms of identification as needed
- A list of your child’s current medications
- Comfort items like a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, book or toy to help your child feel more at ease while he or she is here
If you have questions about what you will need to bring, please call 727-767-6666.
Where do I wait while my child is in surgery?
While your child is in surgery, you will wait in a surgical waiting area on the fifth floor of the hospital. You may bring something to read to pass the time and the cafeteria is open for snacks and meals. If you have any questions or concerns in the waiting area, please pick up on the phone on the wall by the door to speak with our family coordinator.
We have a number of resources available to your family during your child’s treatment, including temporary stay options with Ronald McDonald House. Learn more.