Guide to your Child’s Surgery

From your first visit to the Children’s Heart Center through pre-admission testing, you have been preparing for your child’s heart surgery. Our Children’s Heart Center doctors, staff, and social workers have been answering your questions. We will continue to support you and your child through admission and discharge. At the Children’s Heart Center, we believe in supporting you and your family as you help your child approach heart surgery and cope with any fear or anxiety.

Talking to Your Child about Heart Surgery

As a parent or guardian, you should decide when and what to tell your child, based on your child’s developmental stage and ability to understand what is happening. We offer the following guidelines. But since you know your child best, we encourage you to communicate and comfort your child the way you think is right.

  • Infants (up to 3): You can support your young child by bringing familiar comforting items from home, such as a pacifier, blanket, doll, stuffed animal, music, or a sound machine. Your child will sense how you feel and act. You can help your child best by remaining calm and being reassuring.
  • Toddler/Preschool (3 to 5): Use simple and concrete language to help your child get a general sense of what to expect during and after surgery. Explain to your child that the purpose of the surgery is to help. For example, you can say, “The doctors need to help your heart do its job so you can do the things you like doing.” A young child may feel that the unfamiliar process is not a good thing, so it is important to offer reassurance. You can explain that, “The doctor will use a medicine called anesthesia that will help you fall asleep so you won’t feel anything. And then you will wake up.” It is always a good idea to bring a few items your child finds comforting, such as special pajamas, toys, music, or a doll.
  • School Age (5 to 12): Your child is likely able to understand some details about what to expect to see, hear, and feel during and after surgery. Ask your child what he or she thinks and how much information he or she wants. Remember it is okay if you do not have all the answers. Prepare your child to understand that she or he may feel some discomfort or aches, and be sure to emphasize that the nurses and doctors will be there to give medicine to help. You can explain that, “Anesthesia is a medicine that will help you stay asleep during the surgery so you won’t feel anything. And then you will wake up.” Try to encourage your child to tell you or the nurse if something hurts or seems scary. This will help give your child a sense of control and purpose.
  • Teenage (13-18): With teenagers, the best approach is to be as honest and open as possible from the very beginning of the process. Allow your teen the opportunity to meet with the medical team on his or her own at different stages. Encourage your teen to write down questions and get answers before and after surgery. If possible, allow your teen to have some control and make choices. Meanwhile, remain supportive of your teen. Teens may seem indifferent, but they have worries and concerns of their own.

Before Surgery

The night before your child’s surgery, we will let you know what time to arrive. Please plan to leave early enough so you can arrive at least a half-hour before your scheduled check-in time. This will allow enough time for possible travel delays and parking. We encourage you to consider using public transportation so you do not need to deal with parking your car.

Preparing Your Child

Please follow these bathing and feeding instructions for the night before surgery.

Bathing and other preparation
On the night before surgery please make sure to:

  • Bathe your child and follow the instructions for skin preparation, which we will provide to you separately.
  • Remove nail polish, synthetic nails, and jewelry, including pierced earrings and other piercings.

Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor or nurse:

  • You may give your child’s scheduled medications the night before surgery.

Eating and drinking the night before surgery
Your child’s doctor will provide specific instructions.

In case of illness
If your child is feeling sick in the days before or the night before surgery, let us know as soon as possible. If any of the following occur, please call us at 1-844-733-7692 and explain to the operator that your child is having heart surgery. You will be directed to the cardiologist on call.

  • Any cold symptoms such as fever, runny nose, or cough
  • Any episodes of diarrhea or vomiting
  • You have reason to believe that your child has been exposed to anyone with flu-like symptoms or any form of contagious disease such as chicken pox or measles

Day of Surgery

On the day of surgery, you will check in at The Child Life Zone (The Zone), a therapeutic and educational play environment for pediatric patients and their families inside Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital.

Once you enter Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, our security staff will direct you to The Zone.

Check-in and Preparation

Check in for surgery at your scheduled time at The Zone. Once you check in, you will go to the waiting room area of The Zone. Here, you may need to complete any remaining paperwork. To be prepared, you should have your insurance information, contact phone numbers, and any other important information with you.

From The Zone we will be accompany your child to the holding area, which is adjacent to the operating room. Your child’s cardiac anesthesiologist will meet with you here and will then bring your child to the operating room. You will have an opportunity to ask questions at that time.

In the operating room, the anesthesiologist will give your child medicine (anesthesia) to keep your child asleep and pain free throughout the operation. While your child is taken into the operating room, we will direct you to the family waiting room adjacent to the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit where you can wait during the surgery.

During Surgery

How long heart surgery takes varies depending on your child’s heart condition and the type of surgery. Your child’s surgeon can give you an estimated time, but it is only an estimate. The surgery may take more or less time than the estimate. We understand that waiting for your child during surgery is stressful.

Members of your child’s medical team will provide regular updates about the progress of the surgery. The pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU) nurse will stop by to answer any questions. One of our cardiac social workers will also stop by to see you for additional support during surgery.

In addition to meeting with you in the family waiting room, our team can stay in contact with you by cell phone. We will be sure to confirm that we have the correct number. Please bring a phone charger.

After Surgery

Your child’s heart surgeon will come to see you in the family waiting room when the surgery is completed. After that, we will bring your child to PCICU on the fourth floor of Kravis Children’s Hospital. In the PCICU, specially trained doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and technicians provide comprehensive medical care in collaboration with your child’s surgeon.

We understand that you will be very eager to see your child after surgery. You will be able to see your child as soon as possible after the necessary postoperative tests (EKG, chest X-ray, etc.).

When the time is right for you to see your child, a member of your child’s medical team will meet you in the family waiting room and bring you to your child’s bedside in the PCICU.

The PCICU nurse will come by to meet you. The nurse will answer your questions and provide an orientation to the PCICU. It is best to bring only the essentials into the PCICU to ensure nothing gets lost.

Remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer every time you enter or leave the PCICU to help ensure a safe recovery. Hand sanitizer dispensers are located conveniently throughout the PCICU. Hand hygiene plays an important role in preventing infection in the hospital. It is your right to ask anyone entering your child’s room to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer.

Support Services

In addition to the above information, the following support resources are available to you and your family before and after surgery. Just ask, and we will connect you with the following:

  • Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy: The staff is available to help support your child and siblings throughout the hospitalization with medical play, toys, music, art, and pet therapy.
  • Social Work: Social workers can offer you and your family supportive counseling, community referrals, and assistance with all non-medical concerns you may have.
  • Spiritual Care: The spiritual care team can provide support to members of all different faiths and are available for prayer, rituals, baptisms, and support.
  • Books or Other Materials: We have a wide range of books, brochures, and videos.  Please contact your social worker or child life specialist for specific recommendations for you and your child.