Home Care After Heart Surgery

To make an appointment at any of our locations call 317-338-3000

Care of the Incision

  • The stitches will be removed before your child goes home.
  • Some children will have small pieces of tape (steri-strips) covering the top layer of skin. Ten to fourteen days after surgery the steri-strips will begin to dry up and peel off. Allow the steri-strips to fall off on their own.
  • Some children have small incisions from the chest tubes. It is normal to have a small amount of clear yellow or dark bloody drainage from this incision. A dry band-aid or light gauze may be used if there is drainage.
  • Your child may bathe or shower the day after the stitches are removed. It is best not to let your child soak in the tub until the incision is completely healed-about 7-10 days.
  • Do not apply lotion, oil, or cream to the incision until it is completely healed.
  • The incision will fade best if your child avoids sun exposure for several months after surgery. A sunscreen (at least SPF 15) is recommended.


  • Allow your child to play at his or her own pace.
  • Avoid activities that may cause injury to the chest. (Contact sports, physical education, sledding, bike riding, playing on swings and slides, roughhousing)
  • Avoid activities that require vigorous use of the arms for about 6 weeks after surgery. (crawling, shoveling, lawn mowing, golfing, tennis, bowling, swimming, push-ups/chin-ups)
  • Your child may not lift anything over 5 pounds until 6 weeks after surgery.
  • To avoid pain and tension on the incision, do not lift your child under the arms. Instead, lift your child by supporting their bottom and back.
  • Most children can return to school about 2 weeks after their clinic visit.
  • Do not allow your child to drive for 4 weeks. If your car does not have automatic transmission and power steering, your child should wait 6 weeks to resume driving.


  • Most children are experiencing mild discomfort by the time they go home.
  • Chest pain is not unusual. Gas pains may seem to be “chest pain” to a child. This is best relieved by walking or rocking.
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen) may be given at the age-appropriate dose and frequency.

Daily Living

  • Your child may have difficulty sleeping after his/her hospitalization.
  • Loss of appetite for 2 to 3 weeks after heart surgery is common.
  • Encourage your child to eat and drink; cold foods are often preferred over hot.
  • To protect your child from colds and illnesses, avoid day care and crowded areas.

Prophylaxis of Bacterial Endocarditis (SBE Precautions)

  • Your child will need to continue to take antibiotics prior to having dental work or certain surgical procedures.
  • A few children will be able to discontinue this practice six months after surgery. Be sure to discuss this with your child’s pediatric cardiologist.

Return Appointments

  • Arrange to see you family doctor or pediatrician one week after your child returns home.
  • A follow-up appointment with your child’s surgeon and pediatric cardiologist will be arranged for 2 weeks after surgery.

Contact the doctor at (317) 338-3000 or toll free at 877-207-3917 if your child develops:

  • Cloudy yellow drainage from the incision
  • Increased redness or swelling (bulging) of the incision
  • Fever over 101.5° F by mouth (100.5°F under the arm for infants and young children)
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Increased pain
  • Shortness of breath, breathing difficulties
  • Breastbone popping or clicking

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