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What to Expect - Heart Surgery

If your child needs cardiovascular surgery, you can be sure that their heart is in good hands. We provide a careful and thorough process from scheduling to follow-up care to ensure that every child gets exactly what they need for their unique situation.

Scheduling surgery


The Heart Center team holds weekly conferences to discuss all children who are candidates for surgery. Each child’s case is unique and our comprehensive team of surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, nursing staff and necessary specialists will carefully consider each one.

When the team decides it’s time to proceed with surgery, your child’s cardiologist will contact you to share the plan. Then, our scheduling team will contact you to determine a surgical date that works best for you and the medical team.

Pre-admission testing


If your child is already staying at the hospital, your child’s medical team will order all necessary testing and lab work. We will help you understand everything about your child’s procedure. You will have the opportunity to meet with your child’s surgeon and ask questions.

If your child will be coming from home, they will likely go through our Pre-Admission Testing (PAT) department one or two days before surgery.

Pre-admission Testing (PAT) for heart surgery usually includes:

  • A thorough medical history and physical exam by our nurse practitioner team

  • Lab work, including blood tests and urine sample

  • Any imaging studies your doctor has requested, such as a chest x-ray, echocardiogram, ultrasound, etc.

  • Education regarding the procedure and what to expect before, during and after surgery.

  • Meeting with your child’s surgeon to discuss the procedure and answer your questions (this consultation may take place on a different day or via telemedicine, depending on where you live)


This PAT visit can last 2-4 hours depending on what tests your child needs.

If you’re traveling to Children’s Mercy from a distance, a social worker can help you arrange your travel plans, including the Ronald McDonald house or other overnight accommodations if necessary.

Surgery day


Heart surgeries can be lengthy – your child may be away from you anywhere from four to six hours or more. A dedicated nurse practitioner will keep you updated in person and by phone throughout the surgery. In addition to these personal updates, the EASE app provides secure, live text message updates from your child’s surgical team during their procedure. These updates can be shared with family and friends to provide ongoing communications and enhance the waiting experience.

Once the surgery is complete, your child will be admitted to our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), where a collaborative team of ICU doctors, cardiologists and nurse practitioners will manage your child’s care. As your child recovers, they will likely transfer to the 4th floor, where this high level of care will continue through discharge. Before you leave, your care team will go over instructions for caring for your child while they recover at home, as well as planning for all necessary follow-up appointments.

Many factors go into determining when your child will be ready to go home after surgery. Your surgeon can give you the best estimate regarding your child's anticipated length of hospital stay after surgery.

For more information about what to expect the day of your child’s surgery, visit our Surgery section.

Planning for Surgery

From free valet parking at the front door to personalized follow-up care during your child’s recovery, we want every aspect of your experience at Children’s Mercy to be beyond your expectations.

Read about how to prepare your child for scheduled surgery, what to expect when you arrive, and resources available while you’re here.

Heart Surgery Outcomes

At the Heart Center, we care for some of the most complex kids with survival rates that often surpass the national average.

Read more about our outcomes for many common cardiovascular surgical procedures.

Surgery EASE App

Any time your child is away from you during surgery is nerve-wracking for you and your family. The EASE app provides secure, live text message updates from your child’s surgical team during their procedure. This app is currently used for select heart and orthopedic procedures.

Heart Center - Follow up care

After the procedure, your child’s care team will continue to see them in our Cardiology clinic for follow-up care. We will remain with you every step of the way.