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Heart Surgery

After Surgery

Someone from your surgical team will find your contact person in the waiting area or call them at a number they were given to let them know how you are doing.

The Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU)

You’ll still be asleep when you’re transferred to the CVICU and will likely sleep for several hours.

Because of the effects of the medicine you were given for the surgery, you won’t remember very much about being in the CVICU.

As you wake up you can expect to hear sounds like beeps and bubbling.

You may feel frightened as you wake up. Remember that you’re never alone—a nurse is always at your bedside.

  • You’ll get pain medicine through your IV before you wake up.
  • The tubes and lines put in before or during your surgery are left in until they aren’t needed anymore. They help to give you medicine (IV), monitor your heart, and help your body drain the extra fluid that builds up because of the surgery (chest tube and drains).
  • The CVICU doctor will decide when you’re ready to have these lines and tubes taken out. Most will be gone by the time you’re transferred to the cardiac surgery ward.

Information for Visitors

Before coming into the unit, visitors must:
  • wash their hands
  • call in to the unit using the CVICU telephone

Only immediate family and people you chose ahead of time (designated visitors) are allowed to visit while you’re in the CVICU.

  • Visits are to be kept short.
  • Visitors are limited to 1 or 2 at a time.
  • Flowers and balloons aren’t allowed in the CVICU.

There may be times that you can’t have as many visitors or the visitors have to wait while you’re in the CVICU. This may depend on how well you’re doing, but also on how busy the unit is. There’s lots of time for longer visits when you’re transferred to the cardiac surgery ward.

The Cardiac Surgery Unit

When the CVICU doctor decides you’re ready (usually 1 to 2 days after surgery), you’ll be transferred to the cardiac surgery unit. You’ll be here another 4 to 7 days before you’re ready to go home.

You’ll still be monitored closely, but it won’t be the minute-by-minute nursing care you needed in the CVICU. If you need your nurse at any time, just use your call bell.

Most rooms are common. This means that you may share it with someone of any gender.
  • You’ll still have an IV for fluids and medicine.
  • You may still have a catheter in your bladder and drainage tubes in your chest.
  • A portable heart monitor (telemetry) will be attached to your chest. The signal goes to the nursing station so your heart is monitored at all times.

During the first few days after surgery it’s common to have an irregular or very fast heartbeat (called atrial fibrillation). This usually only lasts for a few days but may need to be monitored and treated. The pacing wires are left in just in case the irregular or fast heartbeat needs to be treated.

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a fast irregular heart beat that can happen after surgery. It’s not unusual but it may delay your discharge. You may feel palpitations, weakness, and shortness of breath. People who are more likely to get this are: older, have heart valve disease, or already have atrial fibrillation.

This isn’t life threatening and your healthcare team will discuss your treatment options with you.

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