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Home Care after Heart Surgery


  • Leave incisions open to air.  No Band-Aids or dressings are needed.
  • A small amount of clear yellow or dark bloody drainage from any of the incisions is normal.  A Band-Aide or light dressing may be used for this.
  • Until the stitches are out, the incision should be washed daily with soap and water and gently patted dry. A tub bath or shower can be taken one week after surgery or after the stitches are out. 
  • Steri-strips or special tapes placed over the incision should be left alone until they fall off.
  • If stitches are still in place where the chest tubes were, they should be removed by your local doctor or home care nurse 5 days after the tubes were taken out.


  • Allow your child to play at his or her own pace.  Children are good at limiting their own activity.
  • Restrictions to follow:
    • For 2 weeks after surgery:
      • Lift infants and toddlers under their bottom while supporting their back.  Do not lift them under their arms.
    • For 2 weeks after discharge:
      • Keep your child home from school, day care (with the exception of a small, private day care) and other crowded areas such as stores and church.
      • If patient is of driving age, he/she should not drive.
    • For 6 weeks after discharge:
      • No physical activity such as gym, contact sports, sledding, bike riding, roller blading or skiing.
      • No working.
      • No lifting anything over 5 pounds.                                                        

There can be individual variations to these restrictions.  Talk with your cardiologist about your child’s individual needs.   


  • Temperature over 101.5° (F)
  • Increased fatigue/tiredness
  • New onset of dry cough
  • Change in appearance of incision
    • Cloudy yellow drainage
    • Increased redness or swelling
    • Separation of incision
  • Increased pain

Most children can begin or continue their routine immunizations (baby shots) about 4-6 weeks after their surgery.  Talk with your family doctor about this.


Family Doctor:

  • Newborns:                Within one week after discharge
  • All other children:   Contact your family doctor to determine when your child should be seen.

Cardiovascular Surgery Clinic (If being followed at Michigan Congenital Heart Center):

  • 2 weeks after discharge with the Nurse Practitioner.
  • Arrive 45 minutes early for a chest x-ray. 
  • Take x-ray with you to the clinic.

Pediatric Cardiology Clinic (If being followed at Michigan Congenital Heart Center):

  • 6 weeks after discharge.

Families who live a long distance from Ann Arbor will be asked to make their own 2 week follow-up appointment with their referring cardiologist.

4/2006:   Information reviewed and approved by Laura Bell, RN, MSN, CPNP Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Lynda Dettling RN, BSN.


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