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Preparing for open-heart surgery In patient room

If you are scheduled for open-heart surgery, more than likely, you are at least a little bit worried. Your concern in understandable, as it is a very serious operation. But rest assured, you are in good hands with the Tyler Heart Institute team. We have a nationally respected team of surgeons and clinicians, and our heart surgery program has an excellent record when it comes to results.

Learn more about Tyler Heart Institute's heart surgery results.

What to expect

Knowing what to expect during your stay in the hospital plays an important role in making you and your family feel more comfortable about your upcoming heart surgery. The following information provides a helpful guideline, but you should not hesitate to ask your doctor any questions about your surgery and your recovery.

Checking in - Short Stay Unit

  • One the morning of your surgery, come directly to the Short Stay Unit (SSU). This is the same place where your lab work and tests are done the day before surgery. SSU is on the main level of the South Pavilion. If you have any questions, please stop at our information desk located near the Fountain Court.
  • Your pre-surgical preparation is completed in the SSU. Your skin will be washed with a special soap to prevent infection, and the area near the incision site will be shaved.
  • Once the preparation is complete, your family will be allowed to stay with you until you go into surgery.

Your surgery

  • You will be awake upon entering the operating room, where an anesthesiologist will place an IV in your arm and give you medicine that will put you to sleep for the surgery.
  • Your surgery will last approximately 3 hours, but you may be in the operating room for up to 5 hours. Your family should wait in the South Pavilion reception area, outside the SSU on the main floor. A nurse will update your family during your surgery, and your surgeon will talk to your family after the procedure.
  • Once you are in the operating room, the staff will apply devices to monitor your vital signs at all times. The monitoring devices will accompany you to the Intensive Care Unit/Critical Care Unit (ICU/CCU), where you will be taken immediately after surgery.


  • You will still be asleep under the effects of anesthesia when you are taken to the ICU/CCU.
  • When you wake, you will be connected to many wires and devices which are there for your safety and recovery. These will include:
    • Intravenous line to your wrist to monitor your blood pressure
    • Clip on one of your fingers to monitor your oxygen level
    • Electrode patches on your chest, with cables attached, to monitor your heart
    • Bandages on your chest incision, and on your legs if you have had bypass surgery
    • A catheter to drain urine from your bladder
    • One to three tubes to remove drainage from your chest
    • Monitoring line to record detailed information about your heart
    • Intravenous line to your neck for monitoring your heart and your fluids/medications
    • Wires connecting to a pacemaker if needed
  • A ventilator to assist your breathing until you are awake and stable. You will not be able to talk, eat, or drink until the ventilator is removed, but you will be able to communicate through gestures and writing.
  • Nurses in the ICU/CCU have been specially trained to care for heart surgery patients. When you first awaken, they will ask you a couple of questions:
    • Can you squeeze my hands and move both of your feet?
    • Do you have any pain?
  • When you are fully awake and responding to the nurses, the ventilator will be removed.
  • Respiratory therapists will provide breathing treatments and monitor your oxygen.
  • The nurses will provide pain medication and keep you comfortable during your stay in the ICU/CCU.
  • The morning after your surgery, you will be helped out of bed to a chair for breakfast. You may not have much of an appetite, but you will be encouraged to eat and drink.


When you are stable enough, you will be moved from the ICU/CCU to a less-intensive level of care in a nursing unit elsewhere in the hospital.

  • This is where your transition home begins. You will be encouraged to become more independent. Nurses and nurses' aides will monitor your progress and assist you with your routine. Your family is encouraged to assist in your care as well.
  • It is important to take your pain medication routinely while in the hospital to ensure that you do not become too uncomfortable. Your nurse will provide pain medication as needed. It is also a good idea to take pain medication prior to activity.
  • Activity/exercise is the single most important thing you can do to speed your recovery. Getting out of bed to a chair for every meal is encouraged. Try to increase the length of your walk each day.
  • The second most important activity in the hospital is deep breathing and coughing. This keeps your lungs clear. Coughing and deep breathing exercises will be taught and should be performed every hour while you are awake during your hospital stay.

Going home

After you are released from the hospital, your heart-care team will continue to be involved in your recovery. You will be scheduled for follow-up visits, and participation in our outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program may be recommended. Learn more.