Heart Operation (Open Heart)
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Preparations for Surgery

Adult patients should not smoke for two weeks and all patients should avoid eating or drinking for eight hours prior to the operation. Generally, a patient will undergo a series of tests before surgery, including a chest x-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and urine tests.  General anesthesia will be given and continually monitored to insure that the patient remains asleep throughout the procedure. 

A catheter is often inserted in one of the patient’s large veins like a jugular vein before surgery to measure heart and lung pressure, blood oxygen concentration, and to administer medications during and after surgery.  A urinary catheter will also be applied and a breathing tube will be inserted in the mouth and windpipe to insure unobstructed breathing.

Post-Operative Care

The average open heart surgery takes about five hours. After completion, the heart is restarted, the heart-lung bypass machine is disconnected, and the incision is closed with sutures. Post-operative care of the patient will involve careful monitoring and an average hospital stay of three or four days after surgery, starting in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Initially, the patient will receive medications intravenously to regulate blood pressure and circulation and to control pain if necessary. A breathing tube will remain in place until the patient is fully awake.

Depending on the age of the patient and the nature of the heart defect, the surgery may fix the problem completely. Follow-up operations or procedures may be necessary in some cases. Children with certain heart defects may need to undergo a series of surgical procedures as they get older.