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Follow-up Care

Caring for Your Child After Heart Surgery

Once all the tests and routine trips to the doctor are behind you, you'll be able to look to the future, which raises a new set of questions. How do you care for a child who has been treated for congenital heart problems? Will your child need special care as he/she grows up? How can you protect your child's heart health without being overprotective?

The good news is, most children who've been diagnosed and treated for a heart problem go on to lead perfectly normal, active lives. They ride bikes, play sports, fight with siblings, hang out at the mall and do all the other things kids do. In the short term, however, there may be some additional care required, and some special precautions you need to take.

Standard Bacterial Endocartitis Precautions

RaccoonChildren with a diagnosed heart problem have a greater risk of developing bacterial endocarditis, an infection that is caused when bacteria enters the bloodstream and reaches the heart. As a preventive measure, your child's cardiologist may prescribe antibiotics before your child undergoes dental work, surgeries or other procedures. If your child has been diagnosed with a heart problem, be sure to share this information with your child's dentist and doctors.

Activity Restrictions

Children who've undergone heart surgery typically want to get back to being a kid as quickly as possible. They also tend to be the best judge of how much physical activity they can handle. 

In general, it's perfectly safe for them to resume most of their normal activities and routines within a few weeks. Strenuous physical activities, such as competitive sports, should be avoided longer. If you're concerned about your child's activities, ask your child's surgeon or cardiologist for advice.

Feeding Concerns and Issues

Infants with heart disease can be breast- or bottle-fed, whatever you prefer. Some babies, however, may require nutritional supplements or feeding supplements of formula or breast milk through a feeding tube in order to gain weight.

Children with congenital heart disease often have poor appetites. Offering high-calorie foods can be a good way to make sure they get good nutrition and gain the weight they need to grow and develop properly. Cardiologists recommend that you NOT restrict fat in the diet, particularly in the first two years of life.