Frequently Asked Questions on Pediatric Cardiothoracics

How long will the surgery take?

The amount of time in the operating room depends upon the child's heart defect and type of surgery.  Your surgeon will be able to answer this question.  When the surgery is completed, your surgeon will meet with you.  Parents are allowed to visit the child approximately one hour after the child's arrival in the PICU.

Where do parents wait during the surgery?

There is a large waiting area on the sixth floor, near the cardiac operating rooms.  Parents, other family, and friends may wait there.  Someone from the operating room will update you during the surgery.

What about anesthesia?

There are a variety of different methods that can be used to put your child to sleep.  Anesthetic plans are individualized for each patient, and you will have an opportunity to speak with the anesthesiologist prior to the surgery. Usually, children first are given a sedative by mouth to reduce their anxiety, then they may be given an inhaled medicine given through a mask.  Generally, an intravenous line is started only after the child is asleep.

Will my child need a blood transfusion?

Yes, with very few exceptions, any child have heart surgery will need a blood transfusion.  We encourage family and friends to donate blood for the child at the Cedars-Sinai Blood Donor Services.  Every donation is fully screened.   

Will I be able to stay with my child at all times, even in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit?

Yes, we encourage a parent to stay with the child.  We have cots and reclining chairs available for this purpose.  Once the child is transferred to the Pediatric Ward, each room has a cot and a private bathroom with a shower.

What should we bring to the hospital?

We encourage parents to try to create a familiar and home-like environment for their child because we want your child’s hospital experience to be as comfortable as possible.  Cedars-Sinai will provide all the basic necessities for the child’s hospital stay, but you are encouraged to bring any of the following items to make your child feel more comfortable:

  • Pajamas, robe, slippers
  • Special blanket, stuffed animal or other comfort object
  • Favorite toy
  • Favorite DVD
  • Family photos

How long will my child be in the hospital?

Every child is different. Every day your child is here, your doctor and/or nurse will make it a priority to communicate with you about the child’s condition and progress and plan for discharge.

Who can visit?

We know it is important to keep communication consistent and open with friends and family members while your child is in the hospital, but at the same time guidelines are in place to ensure proper order and care on the patient floors. Therefore, siblings and friends are allowed during normal hospital visiting hours, which are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Please ask your nurse about specific visiting hours in the Intensive Care Units, which may change during seasonal community infections, such as the flu.  Parents are always encouraged to visit, unless they are ill.

When will my child be able to eat?

It is very important that the child not eat after midnight on the night before the surgery.  After surgery, every child is different and it will depend upon the kind of surgery he has, but children are often ready to start eating one day after their heart surgery.

What kind of care will he need once he is home?  What do we have to do when he gets home?

There will be virtually no special care needed once the child is discharged from the hospital.  The surgical incision will be healing well and not need any bandages.  You will be expected to wash the incision daily with soap and water.  The child will be playing and eating almost normally when he goes home.

Will he be on medicines at home?


Your cardiologist will be able to answer this question.  It will depend upon the child’s cardiac defect and the type of surgery he has.  Often, the child will need medicine at home for one to four weeks after surgery, your cardiologist will tell you when to stop giving the medicine.

How soon can he go back to school?


Please ask your doctor.  Typically, the children stay home from school for approximately six weeks.

What will the scar look like?

Every child heals differently so it is difficult to predict what the scar will look like in a few months.  Approximately two weeks after surgery, you can put a cream or emollient of your choice on the healing incision.  Protecting the incision from the sun with sunscreen or clothing for 6 months will reduce the appearance of the scar.

When do we have to come back to the hospital?


Your child will be seen by the nurse practitioner or the surgeon for a wound check 1-2 weeks after being discharged from the hospital.  You will also see the cardiologist in 1-2 weeks and continue to follow with him or her throughout the child’s life.  It is also important that your regular pediatrician sees the child soon after surgery.

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