How Long Until Patients Regain Consciousness After Open Heart Surgery?

I just clicked on an email from Esther that reads, “Hi Adam – How long does it take for patients to regain consciousness after open heart surgery? I am preparing for the replacement of my mitral valve due to my worn out and prolapsed mitral valve. I’m just curious to know how long I’ll be unconscious, under general anesthesia. Thanks. Esther.”

From my own experience, I can share with you that I went under general anesthesia at 11am – once I was brought into the operating room. According to Robyn, my wife, my open heart surgery was 3 hours long. After surgery, I was rolled into the intensive care unit (ICU) where I was actively monitored by an ICU nurse for the next several hours.



Then, around 5:30pm, I SLOOOOOOWLY (emphasis added) began to regain consciousness. At first, I only heard noises. Next, my eyes began to open slightly and close slightly. The epic moment, when I knew I had fully regained consciousness was when the very uncomfortable ventilator tube was removed from my dry throat.

So, given the above, it took me about 6.5 hours to regain consciousness after open heart surgery. However, please know that each patient case is unique. There are many variables which could impact surgery length (e.g. heart surgery complications) and the time that a patient is unconscious.

I hope that helps explains how long it takes for a patient to regain consciousness after heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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