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Open Heart Surgery Handbook


Before your surgery, you will be seen by an anesthesiologist, who will review your records and ask about your medical history. This will enable the anesthesiologist to choose the anesthetic drugs and techniques that will be safest for you. In surgery, you will be cared for by your anesthesiologist and, usually, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). They will watch your blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels - and most importantly, you - very carefully. You will receive medications to insure that you won’t feel pain during surgery. You will also receive medications to control your heart rate and blood pressure and a breathing machine will breathe for you. The anesthesia team does all of this to ensure that anesthesia use and the surgery area is as safe as possible for you.

Following surgery, you will be seen by another anesthesiologist who will care for your breathing and lungs. As soon as you are able to perform all breathing on your own, use of the breathing machine will be discontinued. Because heart surgery can lead to lung problems, such lung secretions, atelectasis (collapse of the lung), low oxygen levels and pneumonia, your anesthesiologist will see you for several days. Any necessary treatments will be prescribed at this time to prevent these problems from occurring.


Surgical Assistants

You will meet these individuals at many different stages of your hospitalization. They are involved in coordinating your testing prior to surgery and assisting your physician in the Operating Room. Surgical assistants work exclusively in the area of open-heart surgery, with specialized skill and training required. Throughout your stay, they will make rounds with physicians and remove your sutures and pacemaker wires.


Registered Nurses

During your stay, you will be cared for by registered nurses (RNs). These nurses have undergone specialized education and training specific to the care of post-open heart surgery patients, thus private duty or “float” nurses are not part of the unit staff. This helps to assure that you will receive skilled care delivered around the clock by highly trained professionals, with physicians always available immediately.

Following discharge from the hospital, our specialized nurses will be available to provide follow-up care in your home.


Respiratory Therapists

In order to assure quality respiratory care (care of your lungs and breathing), on-staff registered respiratory therapists will assist you in keeping your lungs clear of secretions. They will be involved in removing he breathing tube when your doctor feels you are ready. Once the tube is removed, therapists will assist you in coughing and deep breathing exercises to remove secretions.


Social Services

Counseling is available to you and your family members who need assistance with problems related to illness or special family circumstances. The Department of Social Services, which is staffed by licensed social workers and Registered Nurse home care coordinators, also assists you with discharge arrangements for home health care, medical equipment, or extended care placements, as well as referrals to other community agencies.

In addition to the aforementioned health care professionals, you may also benefit from the services provided by other support personnel, including representatives from Pastoral Care.
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Copyright ©2016 Mercy. Last modified 7/20/2010