The heart surgeons and staff of CSA understand how overwhelming it may be to learn that you or someone you love is going to need heart surgery. Heart surgery is not something you experience on a regular basis, and the anticipation of the unknown may be frightening to you. At CSA, heart surgery is something we see and do every day, so we have put together the following summaries of what you might expect before, during and after your surgery. We hope this information will assist in preparing you for your upcoming surgery.

What to Expect During Heart Surgery

Day of Surgery

Upon arrival at the hospital, you will prepare for surgery by taking a shower using antibacterial soap and having your body hair shaved. After your shower, an IV will be inserted and you will be taken to the operating room (OR) for your heart surgery.

As soon as you arrive in the OR, you will be given a sedative through your IV. After your surgery is complete, your surgeon will meet with your family to discuss your condition.

Upon leaving the OR you will be taken to the intensive care unit. Your family may visit you briefly after you are settled. A fully trained critical care nurse will be by your side the entire day and night of surgery monitoring your condition. Usually, several hours after open heart surgery, you will begin to a wake up and you will be removed from the ventilator.

Post-Op Day 1

Postoperative day one is the real start of your recovery. If you are stable the morning after your heart surgery, most of the tubes and monitoring lines will be removed and you will be transferred to the step-down unit where you will remain for the rest of your hospitalization. You will be transferred to the step down unit. You may spend some time sitting in your chair; will be limited to trips to the bathroom with assistance.

Post-Op Day 2 Through Discharge

From this day through discharge, your care will focus on rehabilitation and preparation for discharge. You will meet with a cardiac rehab nurse who will outline your course for the next few days. You will be encouraged to walk several times daily. Initially, you will require some assistance; before long you should be walking the halls independently. You will also be encouraged to use incentive spirometry. A respiratory therapist will instruct you in this. It is important that you participate in your recovery by coughing, deep breathing, using the incentive spirometer and walking.

Throughout your hospitalization, you will be meeting with a care manager. This is a nurse who will help you determine whether there is a need for homecare arrangements such as a visiting nurse. She will also meet with your family to insure that the proper support system is in place at home to assist your recovery.

Day of Discharge

On the day of discharge from the hospital, you will require clearance from your heart surgeon working along with the Nurse Practitioner and Physician's Assistant, whom will have seen you every day during your recovery. You will be given written instructions and prescriptions including one for pain medication. It is important to review your medications carefully as they are frequently different than your pre-operative regimen.

What to Expect After Heart Surgery

The Next Step

Congratulations. Your heart surgery is over and you’re on the path to recovery. This booklet will help you transition back to a healthy lifestyle by outlining steps you should take in order to recover as quickly as possible. We hope that by answering your questions, it will alleviate any anxieties that you may have, allowing you to concentrate fully on your recovery. If at any time, you should have a question or concern not addressed in this guide, call your physician’s office listed on the inside back cover of this booklet.

Download a copy of our Post-Operative Instructions booklet.