After surgery, infants will return to the ICU to be closely monitored during recovery.
While your child is in the ICU, special equipment will be used to help him or her recover, and may include the following:
- Ventilator. A machine that helps your child breathe while he or she is under anesthesia during the operation. A small, plastic tube is guided into the windpipe and attached to the ventilator, which breathes for your child while he or she is too sleepy to breathe effectively on his or her own. After a pulmonary atresia, children will benefit from remaining on the ventilator overnight or even longer so they can rest.
- Intravenous (IV) catheters. Small, plastic tubes inserted through the skin into blood vessels to provide IV fluids and important medicines that help your child recover from the operation.
- Arterial line. A specialized IV placed in the wrist or other area of the body where a pulse can be felt, that measures blood pressure continuously during surgery and while your child is in the ICU.
- Nasogastric (NG) tube. A small, flexible tube that keeps the stomach drained of acid and gas bubbles that may build up during surgery.
- Urinary catheter. A small, flexible tube that allows urine to drain out of the bladder and accurately measures how much urine the body makes, which helps determine how well the heart is functioning. After surgery, the heart will be a little weaker than it was before, and, therefore, the body may start to hold onto fluid, causing swelling and puffiness. Diuretics may be given to help the kidneys remove excess fluid from the body.
- Chest tube. A drainage tube may be inserted to keep the chest free of blood that would otherwise accumulate after the incision is closed. Bleeding may occur for several hours, or even a few days after surgery.
- Heart monitor. A machine that constantly displays a picture of your child's heart rhythm, and monitors heart rate, arterial blood pressure, and other values.
Your child may need other equipment not mentioned here to provide support while in the ICU, or afterwards. The hospital staff will explain all of the necessary equipment to you.
Your child will be kept as comfortable as possible with several different medications; some relieve pain, and some relieve anxiety. The staff will also ask for your input on how best to soothe and comfort your child.
After discharge from the ICU, your child will recuperate in another hospital unit before going home. You will learn how to care for your child at home before your child is discharged. Your child may need to take medications for a while. The staff will give you written instructions regarding medications, activity limitations, and follow-up appointments before your child is discharged.
Infants who spent a lot of time on a ventilator, or who were fairly ill while in the ICU, may have trouble feeding initially. These babies may have an oral aversion; they might equate something placed in the mouth, such as a pacifier or bottle, with a less pleasant sensation, such as being on the ventilator. Some infants are just tired, and need to build their strength up before they will be able to learn to bottle-feed. Strategies used to help infants with nutrition include the following:
- High-calorie formula or breast milk. Special nutritional supplements may be added to formula or pumped breast milk that increase the number of calories in each ounce, thereby allowing your baby to drink less and still consume enough calories to grow properly.
- Supplemental tube feedings. Feedings given through a small, flexible tube that passes through the nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach, that can either supplement or take the place of bottle feedings. Infants who can drink part of their bottle, but not all, may be fed the remainder through the feeding tube. Infants who are too tired to bottle feed at all may receive their formula or breast milk through the feeding tube alone.