What to Expect If Your Child Needs a Heart Procedure

Learning that your child needs advanced heart care can be stressful, and you’ll have many questions. At Pediatric Cardiology Associates of Houston (PCAH), we’re here to provide the support your family needs.

Our pediatric cardiologists and their teams provide comprehensive nonsurgical care for children with all types of heart conditions. If your child needs an invasive procedure or surgery, we guide you through the process with our surgical concierge program.

Surgical Concierge Program: Seamless coordination for children’s heart procedures

At PCAH, we diagnose and treat all kinds of heart diseases in children, including the most complex, critical congenital (present at birth) heart conditions. Our pediatric cardiologists manage your child’s heart health with ongoing care that includes tests and services in our offices.

Depending on your child’s heart condition, they may sometimes need a diagnostic procedure or treatment that goes beyond our in-office heart care. Through our surgical concierge program, we coordinate with pediatric heart experts at a children’s hospital near you for these more complex procedures.

We have close working relationships with heart surgeons, interventional cardiologists and imaging specialists at large pediatric hospitals throughout the Houston metro area. That means your child can quickly see heart experts near you for the best possible care. You may also choose to have your child see our colleagues at The Heart Center at Children’s HealthSM in Dallas.

Our Surgical Concierge services

Our surgical concierge program offers you and your family:

  • Referrals to experienced pediatric heart surgeons and other specialists, in which our cardiologists present your child’s case to the team before their appointment
  • Secure electronic transfer of your child’s records and imaging to the hospital care team
  • Close collaboration with the care team on diagnostic and treatment decisions for your child
  • Assistance for you in communicating with the team about your child’s care
  • Comprehensive follow-up care for your child after the procedure or surgery

When might my child need advanced heart care?

If your child needs a diagnostic procedure or treatment that goes beyond the care we provide in our offices, we may refer them to heart specialists at a children’s hospital. Our surgical concierge program supports families of children who need diagnostic procedures or treatments including:

  • Cardiac imaging. Specialized heart imaging includes computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Cardiac catheterization. This minimally invasive procedure uses thin, flexible tubes (catheters) to access the heart. Your child may need this procedure as a diagnostic test or treatment.
  • Heart surgery. We work closely with experienced pediatric heart surgeons who provide expert care for children who need heart surgery.

What to expect with outpatient procedures and heart surgery

In many cases, your child will be able to go home the same day of their test or procedure. The length of stay depends on the type of procedure that your child is having.

Our team will talk to you about what to expect so that you can be prepared. You can also ask questions of the hospital care team, who will provide details about what you need to do. In general, the steps of the process will include:

Pre-procedure visits with the hospital care team

At the pre-procedure visits, the care team will talk with you about:

  • Any necessary tests or paperwork before the procedure
  • When to arrive for the procedure
  • What time your child should stop eating or drinking the night before the procedure
  • Medications to continue or stop taking and when
  • What you can bring for your child and yourself

It’s a good idea to bring a binder or notebook and pen or pencil with you. You can write down your questions in advance to ask the care team and also make note of their instructions.

The procedure at the hospital

The hospital care team will talk with you about what you need to do on the day of the procedure, how long to plan to be at the hospital and other key information. Again, note-taking materials can be helpful for keeping track of the details.

Child life specialists at the hospital are available to meet with your child during the pre-procedure appointment or on the day of the procedure. These specialists help your child understand medical information so that they feel comfortable going into the procedure.

Some general suggestions on what to bring for your child and yourself include:

For infants:

  • Comfort items such as a stuffed animal, favorite toy or pacifier
  • Diapers, wipes and a change of clothes
  • Books that you can read to them

For children and teens:

  • Coloring books, an iPad or other electronic device (with headphones), or other activities
  • A favorite toy or book
  • A change of clothes for younger children

For yourself:

  • Reading material, laptop or other electronic device (with headphones), or other activities
  • Snacks and drinks from home or outside the hospital, if desired

Recovery and discharge after your child’s procedure

The hospital care team will help you prepare for taking care of your child at home after the procedure. In general, you can expect to:

  • Speak with the doctor or care provider about how the procedure went
  • Receive a discharge summary with care instructions and next steps in your child’s care, including follow-up appointments, medications or therapy

Hospital stay, if necessary

If your child needs to stay overnight after a procedure or heart surgery, the care team will take them to a hospital room. Most often, the hospital care team encourages parents to stay with their children in the hospital. Please check with the care team about the current visiting hours and policies.

Some additional items that you may want to bring for your child include:

  • Books that you can read to your child
  • Warm, soft, loose-fitting clothes, pajamas or a bathrobe, all with front snaps or buttons to manage wires and cords
  • Slippers or socks with rubber on the bottom to avoid slips
  • Anything your child loves to sleep with, such as a pillow, blanket or bedtime music
  • Schoolwork, if necessary
  • Toiletry items

For yourself:

  • Warm clothes and pajamas
  • Toiletry items and medications
  • Laundry detergent and dryer sheets if you plan to do laundry

Follow-up care at PCAH after your child’s procedure

After a minimally invasive procedure or heart surgery, your child will typically see the hospital doctor or surgeon for their first follow-up visit. After that, your child will return to our pediatric cardiologists at PCAH for ongoing follow-up care.

We will see your child in our offices for regular checkups. Your child may occasionally need follow-up tests so we can monitor how their heart is working after the procedure. These tests may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG): A painless, noninvasive test that measures your child’s heart rate and rhythm
  • Echocardiogram (echo): An ultrasound of the heart that shows how well your child’s heart is working

Talking to your child about a medical procedure

These tips can help you prepare your child for a procedure at the hospital:

  • If your child is old enough to understand, tell them in advance about the upcoming procedure. You can tell an older child earlier about the medical condition, procedures and other details. Wait until a few days before the procedure to tell a younger child.
  • Try to honestly answer your child's questions about the medical procedure. You may want to try to explain what the child can expect while at the hospital.
  • For procedures and surgeries, reassure your child that you or another family member will be with them while they are in the hospital to make sure they’re all right.
  • Pack some special items from home. Familiar objects will help your child feel more comfortable in a strange place. A favorite toy can serve as a security blanket and can go with your child into the procedure and recovery rooms.
  • Siblings may find your child's procedure almost as stressful as the patient does. A good way to ease their fears is to bring them with you on a visit to the hospital. Ask about – and correct – any misconceptions your children may have about their sibling's illness or hospital procedures. After the visit is over, set aside time for communication and activities with each child individually.
  • Our team is here to help you and your child. And every children’s hospital has child life specialists who can visit your child. Ask the hospital care team for details.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your child might have some restrictions on exercise and other activities, depending on the type of procedure they had. The hospital care team and our pediatric cardiologists will provide specific instructions for your child. Here are our general recommendations if your child had:
  • An imaging study: Your child might be a little tired for a day, but usually, they can go back to school and other activities the same or next day.
  • A minimally invasive procedure: In most cases, your child can resume their usual activities and school the day after the procedure.
  • Heart surgery: Your child can usually go back to school after their first postop visit with our pediatric cardiologists.
Social workers from Children’s Health are available to advocate for your family’s values and concerns, even if your child is receiving care at another hospital. They help the care team understand your family’s needs and coping strategies. Together with your social worker, you can create a plan for navigating any challenges. We also have a dedicated nurse who can address any concerns you have and help you navigate your child’s hospital journey.

You and our medical experts are one team. Together we’ll help your child on the journey to healing. That’s why we encourage you to participate in your child’s care through open communication with your child’s care team.

Every person who assists in your child’s care will announce who they are and what they do. We want you to feel comfortable interacting with your child’s care team so you can advocate for your child’s needs and understand their care plan.

You can let the bedside nurse know what daily activities you would like to do with your child, such as diaper changes or feedings. If you have questions or concerns or need to provide additional information, please share them with your provider.

Yes, we can work with school nurses and other staff to explain your child’s medications. We can review the dosages and when to administer the medications to make sure your child excels in school while getting their medications as needed.

Mended Little Hearts is a support program for parents of children with congenital heart conditions and other heart diseases. The program is dedicated to inspiring hope in those who care for the littlest heart patients of all. Mended Little Hearts offers resources and a caring support network as families find answers and move forward to find healing and hope.

Conquering Congenital Heart Disease gives knowledge, a voice and hope to children with congenital heart disease and their families, supporting their comprehensive, lifelong needs. The organization supports awareness, knowledge, community and research programming. Local activities include online chat networks, in-person peer support, social events, individualized care packages, physician education, and research promotion and participation.

Social workers at The Heart Center at Children’s Health offer an in-person support group meeting every week for all inpatient heart families. Children’s hospitals in Houston and other parts of Texas offer similar groups and meetings. Please check with the social workers at your child’s hospital for details.

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