Pediatric Heart Transplant Surgery

Step 1

  • When a donor heart is ready, the Children’s Heart Transplant coordinator will call the family at home to let them know about a possible heart donor. If no one is home, the family will be paged or called on the cell phone. Families need to call us back as quickly as they can.
  • Families will be asked if their child has had any recent illnesses or currently has fever, diarrhea or vomiting.
  • We will tell the family when they and their child need to be at the hospital. The family and child must be able to leave the house within 30 minutes of our call, so they need to make sure their car or truck is working well at all times.

    Note: Parents should not give the child anything to eat or drink after we call the child in for the pediatric heart transplant.

Step 2

  • The Children’s Heart Transplant coordinator will remind the family where to report. They will go to admissions or check-in to the hospital.

Step 3

  • The child will be admitted and staff will direct the family to the child’s room. He will then be prepared for the pediatric heart transplant surgery.

Step 4

  • The Children’s Heart Transplant team will do a medical review of the child in the next few hours that might include:
    • A complete history and physical exam
    • A review of the child’s current medicines—families need to have a complete list of all medicines their child is taking
    • A review of any health problems that the child has had lately such as a sore throat, cold, ear infection, rashes, cold sores or contact with people who have infections
    • A chest X-ray
    • Blood work (blood tests)

      Note: If the child is sick or if an emergency occurs, the child’s pediatric heart transplant surgery may be canceled.

Step 5

  • The anesthesiologist will come to the child’s room to discuss his allergies and types of anesthesia. An anesthesiologist is a doctor who monitors the child during surgery. Anesthesia is medicine that allows the child to be in a deep sleep so he cannot see, hear or feel anything, not even pain.

Step 6

  • The pediatric heart transplant surgeon will come and talk to the family about their child’s pediatric heart transplant surgery. The family will be asked to sign a consent form for the child’s pediatric heart transplant surgery after the pediatric heart transplant surgeon has explained the operation and its possible risks.

Step 7

  • The pediatric heart transplant surgery will take place.
  • The pediatric heart transplant surgery may take from four to six hours. If the child has had previous heart surgeries, the operation may take longer.
  • During the heart transplant surgery, there is a room for the family to wait.
  • The Children’s Heart Transplant coordinator, an operating room (OR) nurse or a child life specialist will give the family updates about their child.
  • The pediatric heart transplant surgeon will talk to the family after the child’s heart transplant surgery.
  • If the family needs to leave the hospital, they must tell their child’s heart transplant coordinator. They need to leave a number where they can be reached.

Step 8

  • Right after the child's pediatric heart transplant surgery, he will go to the Children’s Michael P. Fisher Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).
  • The child will be sleepy from the anesthesia (a medicine that puts the child to sleep during pediatric heart transplant surgery).
  • I.V.s (small, plastic tubes that provide fluids and medicine through his veins) and drainage tubes will be connected to the child. A ventilator will also be attached to the child. The ventilator will breathe for the child until he wakes up from anesthesia.
  • The child will not be able to talk while on the ventilator.
  • Once the child wakes up and can breathe on his own, the breathing tube will be removed and the child will be able to speak.
  • The child may stay in the CICU for two to three days.
  • The Children’s Heart Transplant team and the CICU staff will take care of the child after the heart transplant surgery 

    Visitor Guidelines for the CICU and CSU

Step 9

  • When the child no longer needs intensive care, he will be transferred to the Cardiac Step-down Unit (CSU).
  • The nurses and staff will help the child recover and prepare him to go home.
  • The child can usually go home about seven to 14 days after the pediatric heart transplant surgery.
  • The Children’s Heart Transplant coordinator and nursing staff will teach parents how to care for their child at home.