Most patients enter the hospital the day before or morning of surgery. Your situation will be determined by several factors including your potential need for a cardiac catheterization or other pre-operative tests.
On the day of your surgery, it is important to remember that hospital schedules can fluctuate. Be patient knowing that the medical team is taken several precautions to ensure a safe and successful surgery.
Leading up to your surgery, some patients are not aware that:
- A surgical consent will need to be signed
- Select areas of the patient's body may be shaved
Once the heart valve(s) is fixed and the patient's chest or ribs are closed, the patient will be transferred to an intensive care unit.
Visitation by the family and friends is typically permitted at this time. Please note, however, the time that a patient is in the intensive care unit varies.
Typically, while the patient is in the intensive care unit, he or she will awake. This can be a very dislocating experience for the patient, their family and friends.
During the patient's time in the intensive care unit, the patient will come off the ventilator. Please note, this can be a very dislocating experience if the patient is awake.
Due to the effects of the general anesthesia, the patient may be confused or unable to have a meaningful conversation shortly after the procedure.
After the patient is stabilized in the intensive care unit, he or she may be transferred to a step-down unit. This is a hospital nursing unit providing care intermediate between that of an intensive care unit and a normally-staffed in-patient division.
Following surgery, the patient will immediately be encouraged to ensure proper lung function and prevent pneumonia with the use of an incentive spirometer. If needed, here are directions for spirometer use.
Many patients will also be encouraged to get out of bed within the first 48 hours following surgery. Thereafter, the medical team may inspire the patient to walk around the cardiac ward, get in-and-out of bed and perform basic physical functions.
It is not uncommon for patients to undergo post-operative tests (x-rays, echocardiograms), should there be any potential issues with complications.
As for visiting hours and the ability for overnight visitors, each hospital has unique rules and policies. It might be a good idea to determine those rules in advance of the operation.
The length of time that a patient will be in the hospital depends upon the patient's response to the surgery. It is important to note that each patient is unique and will heal at different rates.
On average, the patient will be in the hospital between 4 to 6 days. To better understand this topic better, please read, "How Long Will I Be In The Hospital?"
It is interesting to note that most patients actually enjoy their time in the hospital. To see an interesting survey about patient experiences, please click here.
For patients and caregivers preparing to enter the hospital, here are some other considerations that might be helpful: