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Children's Heart Center

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Discharge & Recovery 

When your child's day of discharge has arrived, one of the pediatric cardiovascular nurse coordinators will meet with you to review all your medications, appointments and discharge instructions.  It will be necessary to have a chest X-ray completed as well as a discharge ECHO before leaving.  You will have an opportunity to ask any additional questions before you leave the hospital. 

Below is a brief outline of your child's recovery period from the time of hospital discharge to the first clinic visit. We hope this will answer some of your questions concerning your child's recovery from surgery.  Please feel free to call the pediatric cardiovascular surgery team at (713) 500-7234 if you have questions or need more information.

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Your child will be on sternal precautions until 6 weeks after surgery. The amount and type of activity allowed in the month after discharge are variable and depend on the type of operation and the function of the heart. The best guide is to let your child do whatever he/she can without becoming short of breath

Each child's exercise tolerance is different; therefore, activities vary depending on each child. Children often limit themselves, but caregivers should observe play closely to watch for signs of fatigue.

Returning to school or daycare

After surgery, your child should not be exposed to large crowds of people for at least 2 weeks.  This is to avoid exposure to people who may have colds, viruses or communicable diseases during your child's recovery.


Your child may take longer or more frequent naps for the first week after surgery, as well as sleep longer at night.  This is normal after surgery and should not be cause for alarm. 


Infants and children may take a tub bath or shower five days after surgery.  After the fifth day, daily baths are encouraged, but please take special care and not let the incision soak under the water.

Pain control

Your child's pain should be treated adequately. For most children after heart surgery, Tylenol (acetaminophen) and/or Motrin (ibuprofen) are adequate for post-operative pain. Follow the package directions for dosages and monitor your child for pain relief. 

Wound Care

Stitches placed beneath the skin are usually used to close the operative site, and these stitches will eventually dissolve. There is often a knot of thread at the top and bottom of the incision. This may be cut off at the follow up office visit 1-2 weeks after surgery, or they will simply fall off with time.

It is common to have scabbing along the incision. There is commonly a suture made of nylon used to close the chest tube site. This will fall out over time or will be removed at the first visit at the surgeon's office.  It is common for there to be redness immediately around the wound. If a reddened area spreads out from the wound, is hot to the touch, has any fluid coming from the wound, or if your child has a temperature greater than 100.5° F it may be a sign of infection.  If this should occur, please contact our office at (713) 500-7339. 

When to Call

You should contact your pediatric cardiovascular nurse coordinator if your child begins to have any of the following:

  • Frequent episodes of diarrhea or vomiting
  • A fast heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or has difficulty breathing
  • Not eating well
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever > 100.4°F
  • Has any problems with the incision (redness, swelling, drainage or pain)

Pediatric Cardiovascular Nurse Coordinators

Karen Bell, R.N. and Becky Sam, R.N.
Clinic: (832) 325-7234
Pager/Text Message: (713) 764-0043

Contact Us

Pediatric Cardiology Clinic
The University of Texas Health Science Center Professional Building
6410 Fannin, Suite 370
Houston, TX 77030
Phone: (832) 325-6516

Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery Clinic
The University of Texas Health Science Center Professional Building
6410 Fannin, Suite 950
Houston, TX 77030

Clinic Phone: (832) 325-7234
Nurse Line: (713) 500-7324

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