Misconceptions of heart care

Common Misconceptions of Life after Heart Surgery

Heart surgery can be a very scary experience for both parents and children. You most likely have questions about how surgery will affect your child’s everyday life. Here are some of the most common misconceptions – and truths – about heart surgery.

Exercise is dangerous.
Exercise is absolutely not dangerous for children who have had heart surgery. In moderation, exercise is good for a healthy heart and can be done safely. Before beginning an exercise regime, be sure to ask your child’s cardiologist what is best for them.

Rehab is only for certain surgeries and should only be done for a short period of time.
Rehabilitation is great for anyone who has had surgery, regardless of their heart condition. The exercises learned in rehab can provide lifelong benefits. Your child can continue doing rehab exercises as permitted by their cardiologist.

My child can eat whatever they want after surgery.
Cardiac nutritionists are available to assist you and your child with dietary tips post-surgery and in our outpatient clinics. As always, healthy meals are beneficial to lifelong heart health.

My child won’t be able to go to school.
Once your child is cleared by their cardiologist post-surgery, getting back to school is highly recommended!

My child won’t be able to play sports.
If your child would like to participate in sports, please set up a consultation with their cardiologist. Participation in many sports can be accomplished after a consultation.

My child will only need to follow-up with their cardiologist for a short time after surgery.
Lifelong cardiology care is recommended for all patients with a heart condition. However, as your child gets older, visits will become less frequent.

My child is not allowed to be around pets.
Only certain pets carry disease that may be transmitted to your child. Most patients do not have to have any further caution than the general population unless they have a heart transplant. Children who have had a heart transplant must be careful of reptiles, cats, and birds.

My child won’t be able to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds.
Lifting items may be restricted temporarily after surgery. After clearance from your child’s cardiologist, lifting items can then be done with appropriate instruction.

My child won’t be able to go on an airplane anymore.
Only certain congenital heart diseases need special precautions on an airplane, such as those that require oxygen support. Most individuals can fly without restriction but be sure to consult your child’s cardiologist before making travel plans.

My child can do as much activity as their body can take.
Under the guidance of their cardiologist, your child can be provided safe activities and sports for their heart condition.

February is Heart Month! Learn how Nationwide Children’s is leading the way in raising awareness, education and funding of medical research.


Mark E. Galantowicz, MD
Mark Galantowicz, MD, FACS, is the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Co-Director of The Heart Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. He is Professor of Clinical Surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and is the recipient of the Murray D. Lincoln Endowed Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery. Dr. Galantowicz received his medical degree from Cornell University. He completed his residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York. He is certified in both Thoracic Surgery and Surgery.

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