“Can I Stay Overnight In The ICU With My Wife?” Asks Ted

By Adam Pick on September 5, 2010

He writes, “Adam – My wife is going in for aortic valve replacement operation next week. I want to support her morning, noon and night. Do you know if I will be able to stay in the ICU overnight with her? Thanks, Ted”


Patent, Caregiver & Nurse In Intensive Care Unit


In answering Ted’s question, I would advise him to contact the cardiac center where the surgery will occur. Each hospital has their own set of policies and procedures that may impact Ted’s ability to stay overnight with his wife.

As you may learn during your research:

  • Some hospitals encourage families and friends to be with their loved ones at all times following surgery.
  • Other hospitals have firm visitor policies which are not so flexible.

During my overnight stay in the ICU, Robyn (my wife) had to “gently” persuade the head cardiac nurse to permit her “round-the-clock” visit. Thank heavens Robyn did that. Similar to many patients, my first night in the ICU was a bit challenging and quite dislocating. Having Robyn next to me, really, really, really helped out.

Lastly, as I’ve shared before, each patient case is unique. So, the patient’s time in the ICU will vary. I’ve spoke with several patients that did not spend one night in the ICU. Other patients, however, spent several nights in the ICU.


Patient In ICU Connected To Multip TubesHeart Valve Surgery Patient In Intensive Care Unit


Ultimately, I encourage patients and their caregivers to ask these types of questions to their cardiac team BEFORE surgery. That way, your expectations will be properly managed.

I hope that helps Ted (and perhaps you) learn a little more about the patient and caregiver experience within the intensive care unit. If you already had surgery and would like to share your thoughts about this topic with Ted, feel free to post a comment below.

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

lislepammysue says on September 5th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

No one stayed with me and I survived. I was highly medicated and so it didn’t make much of a difference. I know I had conversations with friends and can’t remember the content. I must admit that the ICU was very, very hot and I could never find the call button. Does your wife want/need you there?

Ernest MacQuarrie says on September 5th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

My wife (79 years old) had her aortic valve replaced on May 24 this year. I was allowed to stay in the ICU without restrictions. However I got the feeling that my presence was somewhat of a disruption to their activities. I managed to secret myself in a corner to try to keep out of their way but there were times when they had to dodge me to do their job. In order to remove the ventilator the nurse repeatedly asked my wife to squeeze her hand, I guess to see if she could breathe on her own. After several tries without success (no return squeezing by my wife)I thought that I would try to get her to respond. So I got a hold of her hand and said “Janice squeeze my hand” Instead of squeezing my hand she shook her head “NO!”. The Nurse got a laugh and after about an hour Janice did respond and now 3+ month later she is back to normal riding her bike and swimming and I am a happy camper.

Dale P. says on September 5th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

The hospital I was in did not have facilities for my husband to stay over, and we have a teen-aged daughter who wanted to get home to. Of the first 36 hours after my surgery, I probably slept 35.

Inger says on September 5th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

I spent 26 hours in the ICU after my aortic valve replacement six months ago. The first thing I remember after the surgery is two nurses bent over me telling me they are going to pull a tube out of my throat and it may be uncomfortable. I never felt it, I slept through it and the next thing I remember is being rolled into my room. So Ted, your wife might not even know you’re there. All the best to the two of you whatever you decide.

Candy Hamacher says on September 5th, 2010 at 6:41 pm

I had a mitral valve repair 52 days ago. I remember very little the immediate post op 24-36 hrs . I did not want my husband in the ICU overnight the first night because the nurses would be so busy with caring for me at my sickest. He was at the hotel next door. There was a note on my chart to call him anytime. He is a bit older than I am and I knew that I really needed him AT HOME to help me recover. I needed him well rested and able to help me when I got out of the ICU and at home. DON”T UNDERESTIMATE THE WEAR AND STRESS ON YOURSELF!!! You WILL BE supporting her morning, noon and night at home. She will depend on you. It’s ok if you are not there every second in the hospital.

Fran says on September 5th, 2010 at 7:58 pm

My surgery was at the Cleveland Clinic and my husband was not allowed to stay. Length of visits were limited also. I had wanted a photo taken of me post op, but my daughter was told that was not allowed. I also had a special healing quilt that had been made by a friend and wanted that placed over me and that was also not allowed. The photo and quilt were used in the step down unit. I was disappointed but their standards for infection control are very high, so I understood their reasons.

Vivian says on September 5th, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Against my wishes, my husband stayed in the ICU until I woke up. It was a waste of time. Of the eight hours he spent there, I remember seeing him once. In fact, like others have mentioned, I barely remember the 48 hours I spend in the ICU after my pulmonary valve replacement. I was glad my husband did not sleep there and that he conserved his forces for other things.

Also, like other posters indicated, you will be in the way in the ICU. The rooms/partitions are small, and nurses come in and out constantly. It is noisy, and you will get no sleep. There are more useful things you could do your wife. Finally, I was glad my husband (and other family members) were not around to witness me doing things like peeing in a portable toilet.

Patricia says on September 6th, 2010 at 12:02 am

My husband’s surgery was performed in Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, CA. They were very strict in ICU about number of visitors, hours in, etc. so I did my best to abide by them. His care was of the utmost importance and a single nurse was assigned to watch him VERY closely. There is a tremendous amount of equipment they are working around. He had superb care in ICU! Once out of ICU I was allowed to stay all day. Care of yourself is so important. You need your rest, too. Once you are home, you are the full time caregiver.

Lynn Walka says on September 6th, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Dear Ted, This is the 6th week after my aortic heart valve replacement and then a pacemaker. My husband said even after reading Adam’s book he was scared when he saw me for a few minutes in ICU.
I was happy just to see his shadow when I first woke up. However, I would never have wanted him to stay and witness all that goes on to take the tubes out. Plus, I needed him to keep his strength for all the remaining weeks! He also got me a nurse’s aide for the next 3 nights so he could sleep well at night and I know this helped both of us in my remarkable recovery. All will be well! Be Strong,Lynn

Adam Pick says on September 6th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Thanks everybody!

You are all offering some wonderful advice, thoughts, tips and insight!

Very much appreciated!


Midge says on September 6th, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Ted, my Aortic Valve replacement was about a year and a half ago and my husband was not allowed to stay in the ICU–but he could visit for 5 minutes each hour. However, my surgery was on a Friday AM—I was out before I hit the OR and don’t remember a minute in the ICU. The first thing a remember after surgery was waking up Monday afternoon on the cardiac care floor. So it didn’t matter if he was there or not as far as I was concerned. I belong to Kaiser and had my surgery at their hospital in L.A. They have an apartment bldg next to the hospital where my husband was able to stay (cost free) for the whole 10 days I was in the hospital so made it easy for him to visit whenever. He did say that in the ICU I had three nurses assigned to me at all times, so would guess I was well cared for. By the time I got out of the hospital he was well rested and was aware of what I could do and what I could not do for myself. That was valuable when we got home, because in the hospital you feel pretty sure of yourself, but once you are home you are on your own and you do feel a little unsure of things. All in all, it was a good experience (or as good as open heart sur
gery can be.

Debbie says on September 6th, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I had aortic vlave surgery this past Novmeber. My husband did not stay in the ICU althought he was allowed to..it would have been in a tiny cot-like bed in the corner. He ended staying at a hotel right next to the hospital with my other family since I was basically unconsciuos most the night. He did, however, stay with me evey night after that when I moved to step down. I was in a total of 6 days. Being there when I was more awake was very helpful. I had my surgery in Boston (Boston Childrens’ Hospital) if you have any questions. I’m 39 but they have an incredible adult congenital group there, if anyone is looking for one. Amazing people!

Kathy says on September 6th, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I was 63 yr. old female when I had same surgery last Dec. at the Cleveland Clinic. Had no one with me (family member afraid to fly). Don’t even “remember” being in the ICU after surgery. Was in my hospital room when I woke up. Was in ICU the following week due to a complication & there was not a lot of room to spare. You would be in the way if issues arrose. Remember, there are other people in close proximity needing care for their special needs. Suggest waiting in hospital room for your loved one.

Lisa says on September 6th, 2010 at 11:07 pm

My partner wanted to stay with me the night in the ICU and I am glad he did. I was not as well drugged as others and remember most of my hospital stay, including several hours of being intubated, during this time I was so glad to be able to grasp the hands of my family members. It meant the world to me to know they were there supporting me. I did not sleep well in the ICU with the constant blood tests and medical personel in and out and was glad that my partner was there to occupy my time and was very vocal when I needed more pain meds.

Don Hull says on September 7th, 2010 at 12:25 pm

I had surgery at Vanderbilt in April 2009 and my wife stayed with me the full time I was in ICU. It was a big room with fold out bed and a full bathroom w/shower for her use. A friend of mine had heart surgery at the same time at a different hospital in another state, a hospital that has an excellent reputation for heart surgeries, and they did NOT allow his wife to be in the ICU unit except at scheduled times. So Adam is correct; this is one of many questions you should ask BEFORE you select your surgeon and hospital. For some, this may be a minor part of the decision; frankly we did not ask this question beforehand, but afterward we were very glad that Vanderbilt allowed, even encouraged, her and other close friends to stay in the ICU with me.

Brenda says on November 1st, 2010 at 1:16 am

Were any of you on life support long after you valve replacement? My brother had surgery THursday it is now Monday. He has not awakened even once. They tried to remove the ventilator yesterday and he wasn’t breathing on his own. They told us the surgery would take 6 hours it took 11.5 hours because they first tried to replace his valve with a plastic valve it did not work so they inserted a pig valve. He is still in ICU. What does this mean? Can anyone tell me if this is abnormal? thANK YOU

Ruth Howell says on November 24th, 2010 at 8:30 am

This is for Kathy or anyone else who had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Also interested in emailing/talking with anyone who has had leakage of the anterior leaflet of the mitral valve. I need to schedule surgery soon and could really use some support, encouragement, and information from people who have gone through this. I am a 63 year old woman in, otherwise, good health. Many thanks, Ruth ruthjohnhowell@gmail.com

delta says on April 5th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

my fiance stayed in the ICU in a hospital in mishawaka and they were not going to let me spend the night my fiance wanted me in the room with him as he felt more comfortable he told them if i did not get to spend the night he was leaving they let me but they say you have to leave the room between 7a.m and 8 a.m and between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m as they do there rounds and we are going though this again for the 2nd time so am sure i will be getting to spend the night just voice your wishes or have your family member if they can as it should be up to them if they want you there or not as if you are out of the nurses way they i see nothing wrong in staying with a family member

angela braxton says on June 27th, 2012 at 3:50 pm


I am very glad this issue is being addressed. The day before my surgery at pre-ops I was stunned to know that I could not have my daughter spend the night with me in ICU.

Then even more surprised that my surgeon keeps all his patients sedated and on the vent overnight.

Each patient has a one on one nurse that night. Once off the vent the policy is not overnight guests, But with a plea my daughter was able to stay the night and then I was transfered out of ICU.

So as you say each surgeon and hospital procedures are different. I just knew that your wife stayed with you so I thought that is how everyone worked !

Angela Braxton

Melanie says on August 9th, 2012 at 11:20 am

I had my AVR on 8/25/09 — my husband was given extended visitation but he didn’t stay overnight. I was too medicated to even notice.

Rachael Lane Worley says on May 4th, 2015 at 11:08 pm

My husband had a sudden heart attack two weeks ago, and let me tell you, I think some days it might have been more traumatic for me because the CICU couldn’t seem to make up their minds if I could stay or if I couldn’t. Sleeping on a waiting room floor is not fun. And these are HUGE rooms, and it wasn’t intubated whatsoever. I hate hospitals pretty much after this.

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