Published: Aug. 17, 2010
Updated: June 16, 2011
Learning that your child needs surgery can be frightening for the whole family. But understanding what to expect can help you feel more at ease and ensure that the procedure and recovery go as smoothly as possible.
These tips cover some of the main things you should know about preparing for surgery, hospitalization, and recovery. For more information, please speak to your care team at Duke. We are committed to providing the answers you need.
Discuss with the doctor the need for blood transfusions during or after surgery. Even if the surgery does not require a blood transfusion, at least one unit of blood will be on hand in case it is needed.
Blood may come from a blood bank (all blood is carefully checked for blood type and tested for many kinds of infections) or a directed donor (family member, friend, etc). This blood will also be tested for infections.
Directed donation takes several days to arrange, since the blood is processed in the same way as an anonymous donor, so be sure to plan ahead for this option. For people seeking alternatives to blood transfusions, Duke’s Center for Blood Conservation offers a variety of options to meet your needs.
Keep your child away from sick people before surgery. If your child is in school or day care, this can be difficult.
If your child gets sick, visit your pediatrician to determine if the child is too sick for surgery. After visiting your pediatrician, let your child's pediatric cardiologist or nurse know about his or her condition and any medication that has been prescribed.
If your child is too sick, surgery may have to be postponed.
Take a tour of the hospital with your child. Your child will feel more comfortable if he or she feels familiar with the environment and has met some of the staff that will take care of him or her.
Ask the staff to give you some hospital items, such as a face mask or some other small items. Your child can play with these at home to reduce anxiety and fear.
Your child will undergo a number of tests before surgery because the surgeon needs to know a lot about your child’s heart problem.
These tests may include drawing blood for various tests, collecting urine for urinalysis, chest X ray, electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), echocardiogram, or cardiac catheterization (or angiogram).
You don’t need to pack many things for your child. The hospital has diapers, gowns, formula, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap. (You may be charged extra for some of these items.)
It is a good idea to bring pajamas, slippers, and a few special books or toys. Toys make your child feel better because they come from home.
Please leave all jewelry at home.
The night before the surgery, give your child a good bath and shampoo. You may be given a special soap for this.
Also, be sure to follow the instructions about when your child must stop eating and drinking before surgery. Usually, this is at least four hours before the surgery.
An empty stomach is important so that there is less chance of an upset stomach and vomiting during or after surgery.