Discover what to expect after heart surgery

The moment has finally arrived: Your heart surgery is over. When you wake up from anesthesia, you may wonder why you are connected to so many machines. More importantly, you may wonder what are the next steps and changes you’ll make as a result of your heart surgery.

Here are some things you should know to help ease your mind about your care after surgery.

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Your Care in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

As soon as your surgery is over, your surgeon will talk to your family. You will be taken to the ICU to recover overnight. While you are in the ICU recovering, you will be watched very closely.

Breathing Tube and Oxygen

When you wake up, you may have a breathing tube in your mouth and throat. This breathing tube is in your mouth for your comfort and safety. The tube is attached to a ventilator to help your breathing until you fully wake up from the anesthesia. When you are breathing well enough, the tube will be quickly removed. Then you will be given oxygen through your nose or a mask over your mouth. Keep taking slow, deep breaths and follow the instructions of the nurse speaking to you.

Drainage Tubes

You will have some tubes and wires attached to you in the ICU. The most common drainage tubes include:

  • Chest Tubes: Drainage tubes are placed into your chest near your heart and lungs. The tubes will be removed after a day or two.
  • Foley Catheter: For your comfort, another drainage tube will be placed into your bladder so you will not have to worry about urinating.
  • Intravenous (IV) Lines: You also will have some IV lines in your arms and in your neck. These IV lines help staff track your vital signs, give you medicine, draw blood for tests, and replace fluids to help speed your recovery.
  • Heart Monitor: You will be connected to a monitor to show heart activity and other pressures in your heart.
  • Pacemaker Wires: Temporary pacemaker wires may be placed into your chest during surgery and may be used to control your heart rate if necessary. They will be removed before you go home.

Moving from the ICU to a Regular Care Unit

When you are ready, you may be moved to a regular floor to continue your recovery for a few more days.

To learn more about heart surgery at UPMC, check out our What to Expect: Heart Surgery booklet.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.