We understand that coming for a heart operation can be overwhelming, not just for your child but for the whole family. Even if your child has had surgery before it can still be quite a stressful time. This page guides you through what to expect as you prepare for your child’s heart operation right through to what will happen when you return home. Click on the headings below for practical advice that will help make your hospital journey as stress-free as possible.
Surgical review clinic
Once your referral has been received you will be given a surgical review appointment date with the cardiac outpatient clinic on Level 3 (3d). This appointment is an opportunity to meet with the cardiothoracic surgical team involved in your child’s care, including your surgeon, a surgical fellow (a training surgeon) and a surgical cardiac care coordinator (a nurse who provides ongoing support throughout your surgical journey). Your surgical team will explain what will happen during the operation and answer any questions you might have so that you are able to make an informed decision about your child’s care. It is a good idea to bring along a list of questions to work through with your surgical team so that you don’t forget anything. Encouraging your child to ask the doctors and nurses a few questions their self is also a great way to make them more comfortable with the operation they are having.
It is very important that you use this opportunity to make sure you fully understand the operation being planned for your child. If you don’t, please do not hesitate to ask the team to repeat or clarify anything that doesn’t make sense to you. The staff are always happy to explain things in a different way to help make sure you know what will be happening at every step of the operation.
Your child is not expected to have any test performed at this appointment.
You will be called within a week of attending your surgical review appointment to arrange a date for your child’s operation. Although we will make every effort to keep this appointment date for you, sometimes emergency cases and other unforeseen circumstances mean that it may have to be moved. If you have relatives travelling to support you at the time of the operation we suggest that they purchase flexible air fares that can be changed in case your child’s surgery date needs to be moved.
A letter with the booked date for cardiac surgery will be sent to you from the booking office. You will then need to confirm that you accept this date within 7 days of receiving the letter.
Families from rural and remote areas
We will try our best to book your child’s appointments and operation date close together, so that you only need to make one trip to Brisbane. Please note however that this is not always possible.
Your surgical team will contact you by phone to let you know the dates of your child’s appointment/s and operation. The cardiac booking officer at the hospital will then send you appointment letters for each of those dates in the mail, or via email.
At your surgical review appointment, a surgical cardiac care coordinator will start planning your child’s admission with you. Your care coordinator can also suggest certain services that may help your family prepare.
If your child becomes unwell with cold or flu symptoms in the month before their operation please notify the surgical cardiac care team.
Do not bring your child to the Cardiac Specialty Clinic if they are unwell, please contact your surgical cardiac care coordinator first on 07 3068 2597.
For information about your healthcare options please visit the Public or private page.
We understand that it can be stressful and confusing for breastfeeding mothers to know what to do when their baby is coming for an operation. For information about what to expect and how to prepare see the Breastfeeding a baby with a cardiac condition fact sheet.
Transfer from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
If your baby was born at the Mater Mother’s Hospital (MMH) and has a heart complication that will need to be operated on soon after they are born, they will be transferred from the NICU at MMH to Queensland Children’s Hospital (QCH).
If your baby’s heart condition was identified during your pregnancy you may have already been given a tour of QCH. If you have not had a tour the cardiac team will do their best to familiarise you with the hospital before your baby is transferred.
Your baby’s surgical team from QCH may visit you at the MMH to explain the operation they are going to perform. They will also visit you again after your baby has been transferred so that you can ask any questions you might have about your baby’s operation.
Your Baby will then be admitted to either the Paediactic Intensive Care Unit (PICU) or the cardiac ward (10b) depending on what level of care they require before their operation.
Travelling and staying for families from rural and remote areas
When you have been notified of your dates for appointments/surgery you can start arranging your travel and accommodation through the travel department of your local hospital. Your local travel department may require a letter from QCH – please contact us. Families who live more than 50km from Queensland Children’s Hospital are eligible for travel and accommodation assistance under the Patient Travel Subsidy Scheme (PTSS). Find out more by visiting the Travelling to hospital and Accommodation pages.
Please note: Family members are not permitted to stay by the bedside in PICU. In ward 10b however there is accommodation for one parent to stay overnight at their child’s bedside.
When booking accommodation, it is important to know that your child will have to wait a minimum of 10 days before it is safe for them to fly home after their operation.
Going to the dentist
Before your child has their surgery, they may be required to get oral health clearance. This means that you will need to book a dentist appointment for them to make sure their mouth is free from infection, deep cavities and any rotten teeth. It is best to book your child’s dentist appointment as soon as your surgical care coordinators discuss this with you. That way there will be enough time for the dentist to do any work necessary without having to push your surgery date back.
The reason your child will need to have dental clearance is to reduce the risk of bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and travelling to the heart which could cause an infection called Bacterial Endocarditis.
If your child has visited a dentist in the past 6 months, your dentist can supply a letter clearly stating that your child is orally fit for surgery rather than having to go in for another check-up.
We will provide you with instructions to give to your dentist about how to complete your child’s oral health clearance letter.
Allied health support
Allied health support is available for patients who are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety about their stay in hospital, or procedures such as blood tests. If you feel that your child, or their sibling/s, could benefit from allied health support please speak with your surgical cardiac care coordinators.
Before your child has their operation they will attend a Preadmission Clinic appointment with a surgical cardiac care coordinator. You can find out more about this appointment by reading the Cardiac surgical preadmission fact sheet.
What to bring with you to hospital
- There is no need to bring any nappies or wipes as you will be provided with these.
- Clothes for your baby that zip or button up at the front are the best for after the operation so that the wound can easily be accessed.
- Onsie suits that have fold back feet are also convenient for changing sats probes without having to undress your baby every hour.
- Socks to keep your baby warm.
- If your baby takes a bottle and is fussy with the teat, we recommend that you bring in your own bottles and teats.
- Comforters may be bought in but must be washed prior to coming in.
- Children find that short sleeved, button up tops are the most comfortable tops for negotiating drips, drains and wound care.
- Comfortable bottoms.
- Long sleeves tops (for when drips have been removed) as it gets cool on the ward.
- Underwear including socks.
- Toiletries – tooth brush, tooth paste, shampoo, soap, hair brush.
- Slippers/slip on shoes.
- Comfort toys, pillows, blankets may be brought in but must be washed prior to coming in.
- Entertainment activities.
We recommend you bring something warm to wear on the ward as it can get cold.
What to expect on the day of your child's surgery
On the day of your child’s surgery you will need to make your way to the surgical admissions lounge (4b) on level 4 (blue level) of the hospital and follow the steps below:
- Let the surgical admissions staff know you have arrived.
- Complete your child’s admission forms (make sure you have your appointment letter with you).
- Once the admissions process is complete, there may be a wait before the other assessments can take place. The admissions staff will help make sure you are in the right place for each assessment. You are welcome to stay by your child’s side while their health checks are being carried out, including heart rate, blood pressure and temperature.
- Your anaesthetist will come and speak to you about their role in the operation and give you a consent form to read through and sign. More information about anaesthesia and your child is available in the fact sheets linked below:
- Your anaesthetist may also prescribe some medication for your child to take before their operation.
- There will be a delay before your child goes into theatre or has their procedure, so it’s a good idea to bring a few things to keep yourself and your child occupied. Our Children’s Hospital Foundation volunteers and other charity partners also drop in regularly to keep children entertained while they are waiting.
- When it is time for your treatment or operation, you and your child may be instructed to move to another area of the hospital.
- One parent or carer is allowed to go with their child as they are taken into theatre. If you would like to do this we will provide you with a gown to wear. During the operation you will be able to wait in one of the parent lounges or where ever you feel most comfortable. You are welcome to leave the hospital if you wish as cardiac surgery can take many hours.
After the operation
After their operation your child will be cared for in PICU by a team of specialist doctors and nurses. When the doctors feel that your child is well enough to move out of PICU they will be transferred to the cardiac inpatient ward (10b). For more information see the What to expect after cardiac surgery fact sheet.
For information about staying in the hospital please see the Staying in the hospital as an inpatient page or watch the video below.
It is important that you feel comfortable to care for your child at home after they have been discharged from hospital. To help make sure you feel ready, we will work with you to start planning for this while your child is still an inpatient. For more information see the Going home after surgery fact sheet.
Families from rural and remote areas
Please remember that your child will be unable to fly for a minimum of 10 days following surgery and will require medical flight clearance prior to flights being booked.
Patients who are discharged within a week of their operation will be given a follow-up appointment so that the surgical team can remove their dressing in the post-op clinic.
Your child will also be seen by their Cardiologist 6-8 weeks after their operation, depending on appointment availability.
Families from rural and remote areas
If your child’s dressing needs to be removed by your GP, you will be given a plan before leaving hospital.
If your Cardiologist isn’t scheduled to visit your outreach location soon after your child’s operation, we will arrange for your follow up appointment to be booked in at Queensland Children’s Hospital.