After CCU Discharge Care

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For post-discharge instructions, please see below. 

Generally, there is no specific care that needs to be done for your child’s incision. We just ask that you check the incision for redness, swelling or drainage. Your child can bathe or shower once you are at home, but the incision should not be soaking underwater until at least 6 weeks after surgery. If your child takes a shower they need ensure that their back is towards the shower so the incision isn’t getting directly hit by the water. They should also pat (not wipe or scrub) it completely dry after.

Please do not put any lotion on the incision for 6 weeks after surgery. After 6 weeks, you can apply scar creams to the incision. We recommend Eucerin Lotion or Mederma Scar Cream and a gentle scar massage once or twice a day. For at least 6 months after surgery, protect the scar from the sun. 

If your child has bandages on when you get home, they should be removed after 48 hours. This is very important so that you can check the area under the bandage for any signs of redness, swelling or drainage. If there is any drainage, put a Band-Aid over the area and change the Band-Aid every day or as needed.

Please make sure your child doesn't pick, pull or scratch the incision. Let it flake off even if there is a long piece dangling.

After open heart surgery we have specific restrictions that will help the breast bone to heal properly. These are called sternal precautions and should be followed for 6 weeks after surgery.

These are the activities your child should not do: 

  • For children over 1 years old, lift them with a scooping motion instead of under the arms. It is okay to lift children who are under 1 years old from underneath the arms or with a scooping motion. If they seem uncomfortable being lifted under their arms, lift them with a scooping motion.
  • It is OK for the child to lay on their stomach and to put their arms above their head.
  • Avoid allowing your child to support their body weight with their arms.
  • No lifting/pushing/pulling more than 10 pounds
  • No wearing a backpack
  • No contact sports, rough play or activities that could lead to a blow to the chest—this means no gym class
  • No swimming
  • No driving
  • No sitting in the front seat of a car with an airbag
  • While it is important to be cautious of the breast bone, please ensure your child is still properly buckled into their car seat or seat belt to protect them while driving.

  • If your child has pain on the day they go home from the hospital, you may give them pain medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin as directed throughout the day and night, or as needed for the next few days.
  • Giving the pain medicine at regular times (for example: every 4 or 6 hours, depending on what your provider ordered) will help your child experience less pain.
  • After the first couple of days, when your child has less pain, you may give the pain medicine only when they complain of pain or seems to need pain relief.

  • Your child may be discharged home with a prescription for stool softeners such as Colace® (docusate) or MiraLAX® (polyethylene glycol).
  • These stool softeners should only be given as needed for constipation or if your child is taking narcotic pain medication (examples of narcotic pain medicine: oxycodone, norco, hycet).
  • If your child is experiencing diarrhea, you should not give them stool softeners.

Your child should resume their normal vaccine schedule 6 weeks after surgery.  Seasonal vaccines such as the influenza (flu) vaccine or Synagis can be given any time after surgery if indicated during the appropriate season.

Check for the following signs:

  • Increased work needed to breathe
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Sweating with feeds
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations (the heart has skipped a beat or added a beat)
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Other changes in status

  • Please call us should your child develop any signs and symptoms of infection, such as:
  • Fever greater than 100.5 F
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Redness or swelling of the incision
  • Drainage from the incision
  • Check for increased work needed to breathe, difficulty feeding, sweating with feeds, chest pain, palpitations (the heart has skipped a beat or added a beat), dizziness, fatigue, or other changes in status.

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, please call us. If you feel your child needs immediate attention, please go to the nearest Emergency Department, or call 911.

Phone Numbers

You can call the CV surgery office 312.227.4240 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

If you are calling after these hours or on the weekends, please call 312.227.4000 and ask to speak to the cardiology fellow on-call.

Additional Resources

For more information about care after heart surgery, visit our Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgery section