So that all is ready when you arrive for surgery, it will be necessary for you to visit the hospital ahead of time for preoperative testing and education. This is done by appointment which will be arranged for you by the surgeon’s office. You may expect that at the appointment with your surgeon, he will discuss the indication for operation, the procedure he will be performing, and any associated risks. The education you receive at the hospital will focus more on the in-hospital experience and what you may expect as a cardiac surgery patient at Morristown Memorial Hospital.
Most patients report that they have no recollection of their time in the operating room. As soon as you arrive in the OR you will be given sedation through your IV. Your surgeon will have told you ahead of time approximately how long he expects your surgery to take . After the surgery is completed, the surgeon will meet with your family to discuss your condition.
Post-op, you are taken to the Open Heart Intensive Care Unit. Your family may visit you for a brief period after you are settled in. For most patients, the day of surgery is a lost day. Because of all the anesthesia and narcotics associated with surgery, you are relatively passive in your care. 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 wake up and will be removed from the ventilator.
Some noteworthy events in your hospitalization will be discussed now. Please keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and the timing of patient care is always dictated by the individual situation.
Usually, on postoperative day three, the temporary pacemaker wires inserted at the time of surgery will be removed at your bedside. Following this, you will go downstairs for a chest X-ray.
Usually, on postoperative day four, provided your heart has remained in a normal rhythm, your portable telemetry monitor will be discontinued. Often, by day four, people are ready to try going up stairs and may even be ready for discharge.
Usually, on postoperative day five, you are able to shower. Most consider this the highlight of their recovery period!
Previously, fever was mentioned as a possible problem after surgery. By now, the most common problem experienced post-op is an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. This situation is easily treated by medications in most instances but may require extra time on the telemetry monitor.
During your hospitalization, you will also be meeting with a care manager. This is a nurse who will help 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 in your recovery.
Your discharge instructions are specific guidelines for your recovery. You can ride in a car at any time but may not drive for 4-6 weeks. You may not take a tub bath or swim until your skin incisions have healed. You should shower every day and wash your incisions with soap and water. Be sure to pat them dry rather than rub as you don’t want to disturb the absorbable sutures. You may not lift anything over 10lbs. for at least six weeks. It is important that your breastbone have a chance to heal.
Your follow-up will be with your cardiologist. You will not need to return to see your surgeon unless there is a problem with your incisions.