​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​After Your Operation

What will happen right after my operation?
  • You will be taken to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU), where specially trained nurses and doctors will check your vital signs, level of consciousness, comfort level and dressing.
  • You will be attached to some or all of these machines and tubes:​
  • Heart monitor​ - We use a machine to watch your heart rate. We put electrodes (small round sticky pads) on your chest. We attach wires to the electrodes and connect the wires to the heart monitor.

    Breathing Tube- We put a breathing tube through your mouth and into your airway. The breathing tube is connected to a breathing machine called a ventilator. The ventilator breathes for you during surgery and part of the time that you are in the CVICU.

    Oximeter - This is a machine that helps us check the oxygen in your blood. We put a probe on your finger. The probe is a piece of tape like a Band-Aid, with a light on it.

    Chest drainage tubes​- Your surgeon places 2 or more chest tubes near your chest incision (cut) to remove fluid, blood and air that build up in your chest after surgery. We take the tubes out of your chest once we see that you no longer need them. This usually happens the day after your surgery.

    Arterial line​- This line goes into an artery in your wrist during surgery. It looks like an IV but we use it to check your blood pressure and to get blood samples.

    Intravenous lines (IV)​- You have at least one IV in your arm and another one in the side of your neck. We usually remove these lines in your neck the day after your surgery. The IV in your arm stays in while you are in the hospital

    Bladder catheter ​- We put a small tube into your bladder to collect and measure your urine (pee). You might feel the urge to urinate when the catheter is in. We usually remove this 2 days after your surgery.

    Temporary pacemaker wires ​- At the end of your heart surgery, the surgeon attaches thin pacemaker wires to your heart. The other ends of these wires come out your chest just below your chest incision. We usually remove these a few days after your surgery.

  • During your surgery, your family can wait in the OR waiting room, located on the 3rd floor. Your surgeon will come to talk to them after your surgery. Volunteers will be there to guide your family through the process.
  • Your family can visit you in the CVICU​ about 45 to 60 minutes after you arrive there after your surgery. 
  • Some family members find their first visit to the CVICU upsetting. When your loved one sees you right after surgery, you may be asleep. They can expect to see many tubes and machines and you may look pale and puffy. This is normal. A nurse will be there to explain what is happening.
  • ​For subsequent visits, your family will need to talk to the volunteer on duty in the CVICU waiting room to see if it is ok to visit. If there is no volunteer on duty, use the intercom on the wall of the waiting room to check. If your doctors and nurses are caring for the patients in your room, we may ask your family member to wait.

Visiting the CVICU? Read our guide.​

How will I feel after my operation?
  • ​Everyone feels pain and discomfort differently after surgery. We give you pain medicine to help you feel as comfortable as possible. You may feel pain in and around your incisions. You may also feel stiffness and aching in other areas including your back, arms, neck and shoulders. Please ask your nurse for pain medicine. If you take it regularly, you will feel more comfortable and it will be easier for you to walk, do your breathing and coughing exercises and other activities.​
  • When your breathing tube comes out (usually 2 to 4 hours after surgery), we give you oxygen through a mask or prongs in your nose. You can talk, but your throat may be a little sore. Your voice might be hoarse for a short time.
  • You might feel muscle spasms in your bladder because of the catheter. Let the nurse know if you are having pain in your bladder area. We have medication available to take away the bladder spasms.
  • It might feel like a lot of monitoring lines, but every surgery patient has them. When you leave the CVICU, most of these lines will be out.
How can I take care of myself ​after my operation?
  • Once you are awake and the breathing tube is removed, your nurse helps you to sit on the side of the bed.
  • The day after surgery we will help you to sit in a chair.
  • Start some deep breathing and coughing exercises. We'll show you an exercise called ​Incentive Spirometry. We will give you a pamphlet​ on how to do Incentive Spirometry.
  • ​Wiggle your toes and move your feet. This helps the blood in your legs to circulate.
  • We will help you to stand at the side of the bed and take a few steps.
  • One or two days after surgery, your nurse, physiotherapy assistant or physiotherapist will help you to begin walking in the hall using a walker
  • Be careful not to use your arms to push or pull more than 10 pounds (5 kilograms).
  • We help you to be active for longer periods of time every day.
  • Moving around after surgery is hard, but the more you try at the beginning the more improvement you will see by the end.
  • Our physiotherapy team will assess you and give you a few exercises to do on your own and with the help of family members or caregivers.
How long will I stay in th​e hospital?

You may be ready for discharge as soon as 4 to 7 days after your operation. 

S​ometimes there are medical reasons why your discharge home may be de​layed. Most discharges are confirmed on the morning of your departure.

On the day you go home, we ask that you arrange to leave the hospital by 11 am. This time helps us prepare for new patients coming to us for their heart operation or from the CVICU.​

Preparing to go home? Read Homeward Bound.​​

​​​​​​Learn more about your stay

What will I take home with me?

  • A discharge letter for you and a copy for your family doctor.
  • Prescriptions for your medications.

How can I prepare for my return home?

  • Attend the information sessions on topics such as guidelines for physical activity, and healthy eating. Look on your room door for the list of classes and times.
  • If you live alone, try to arrange for a family member or a friend to be available for the first few days. You will need someone to help with cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning.
  • You will need someone to drive you home. Have a family member or friend pick you up before 11 am. If your trip home is long, stop every hour or so to take a short walk.
  • If you are flying home, be sure to discuss your plans with your health care team. You may need medical clearance to fly and help at the airport.
  • Pack loose, comfortable clothing. 
  • Take some pain medication before you leave the hospital so that you are comfortable on your way home.
  • If you are taking Warfarin (blood thinner), make sure that you have been given and understand the information about how your Warfarin will be monitored (INR blood testing).