What to Expect at Your Child's Cardiac Center Outpatient Visit
Many children with congenital and acquired heart defects will need long-term monitoring. At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, these patients will return to the Cardiac Center's Outpatient Clinic for cardiac care.
This page will help you prepare your child about what to expect during their outpatient visit to the Cardiac Center at CHOP's Main Hospital Location. Most of these procedures will be the same if your child receives outpatient services at one of our CHOP Specialty Care Centers. You can talk to your child's clinical care team if you have additional questions about what to expect and how best to prepare your child.
Arrival and check-in
When you arrive at the Cardiology Clinic on the third floor of the Main Hospital, please check in at the front desk or use one of the check-in kiosks.
Parents may need to review or sign some paperwork, then your family can relax in the waiting room until your child's name is called.
The waiting room always has a children's movie playing and there are toys and books to entertain your child while they wait. Older children or teens may prefer to bring their phones or tablets to play games and watch shows. You can also bring a snack for your child. Our Main Hospital Location also has a cafeteria and gift shop available.
Vital signs and tests
During most outpatient visits, your child will undergo a few tests to assess their heart health.
When it's your child's turn, a clinic staff member will come to the waiting room and call your child's name. You and your child will follow the staff member to the vital signs area. They'll check your child's blood pressure, temperature, heart rate and pulse oximeter – that's a little light up device that lightly clamps to your child's finger to test how well oxygen is flowing through their body. Then you and your child will return to the Cardiology waiting room.
Child Life Specialists can be available on a referral basis to assist in the overall experience for your child. They can teach patients about their diagnosis and upcoming tests during their clinic visits. They can also help prepare patients with picture books, dolls, and medical play supplies. During the procedure or test, like a blood draw, a Child Life Specialist can help to provide some distraction with playing a game, reading a book, or blowing bubbles. Learn more about how child life specialists help cardiac patients.
CHOP also offers language services, such as face-to-face language interpretation and sign language interpreters, to families at no cost. Learn how to request language services.
On some visits, your child will need to get lab work done. This is performed in our Phlebotomy Lab, just down the hall from the Cardiology Clinic. A phlebotomist or technician will draw a small sample of your child's blood to be tested for any labs ordered by their Cardiology team.
Your child may also need an X-ray. If so, a staff member will lead you to Radiology, also located on the third floor. Your child will enter a dimly-lit room where the imaging test is performed. Younger children may sit or lay on a table for the X-ray; while older kids may stand. The radiology technician will put a special protective shield over part of your child's body. Then, they'll move a big X-ray camera around and take a few pictures of your child's heart and lungs.
Some children will also need a specialized test called an electrocardiogram (or ECG) to check the rhythm of the heart. You may hear your Cardiology team refer to this test as an EKG.
During this test, your child will lie on an exam table, and a technician will put special stickers on their chest, arms and legs, then connect "leads," that look like wires, onto the stickers. Your child will have to lay still for a few seconds while the technicians captures the rhythm of your child's heart, then the stickers are removed.
After your child's testing is complete, you and your child will be escorted to an exam room. A nurse will let the Cardiologist know your family is ready to be seen.
When the Cardiologist comes in, they will examine your child, ask how they’re feeling, and review test results. They will discuss any concerns you have, answer your questions, and discuss next steps for your child's health. If your child wants to try a new activity – like play a sport, lift weights or ride a bike – this is a good time for your child to ask the doctor directly. Encouraging children to ask questions can empower them to begin advocating for themselves and have a better understanding their own health needs.
Some outpatient Cardiology visits also include an echocardiogram, a test to see the structure and function of your child's heart. This test is performed by a trained sonographer in the Echocardiogram Lab.
Your child will lie on a bed, with a sonographer sitting in a chair next to them. They will use a machine that is connected to a "wand" that looks like a microphone. The sonographer will put clear gel on the skin around your child's heart. Sometimes the gel is cold, but it does warm up quickly.
Then, the sonographer will put the wand in the gel and move the wand around, sometimes side-to-side and sometimes in circles. The wand acts like a camera that sees through your child's skin to view their heart and lungs, then sends pictures to the echocardiogram machine for clinicians to review.
An exercise physiologist will put many special stickers with wires attached on your child's body, then your child will exercise using a treadmill or stationary bike. Because of the special stickers, doctors can see how well your child's heart works during exercise. Your child may also be asked to breathe into a mouthpiece that looks like a snorkel. This can help doctors determine how well your child's lungs are working during exercise.
On some outpatient visits, your child's Cardiologist will recommend that your child have an exercise test. Make sure your child wears sneakers and comfortable clothes for this test.
When your child's visit is complete, you will return to the Cardiology reception desk, get any paperwork you need and schedule your child's next follow-up appointment.
Your child's primary physician will receive a visit summary from CHOP to ensure continuity of care.