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VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery VCU Medical Center VCU

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

After Surgery

Patients having cardiac surgery go directly to the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (ICU) (10th floor Critical Care Hospital) after surgery.   Your surgeon will meet with your family and bring them into the Intensive Care Unit to see you for the first time after surgery.  You will stay approximately 24 to 72 hours in the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit.  In the ICU, your healthcare team is headed by a specialist in critical care (Intensive care physician) who will coordinate care with your heart surgeon.

  • You may not be totally awake when you arrive in the ICU. You may not remember your time in the ICU, even if you were awake, and talking during that time.
  • You will be attached to monitors for your blood pressure, heartbeat, and breathing.
  • You will have several IVs in place, and may have a special catheter in your neck or upper chest to monitor your heart's function.
  • You will receive oxygen through a small tube in your nose or mouth which is a breathing tube. Once you are fully awake and comfortable, this tube is removed.  You also may have oxygen through a mask over your face.
  • You will have other tubes in your chest and a tube in your bladder.  These tubes will come out when you no longer need them.  It is important that you do not pull on these tubes or try to remove them yourself.
  • Your nurse will ask you to move your hands and feet frequently. Your wrists may be loosely restrained so you do not accidentally pull out your breathing tube.
  • You may have blurry vision. This will go away after a short time.
  • You may be cold. We will keep you warm and comfortable.
  • You will be given medications to help relieve pain and anxiety.
  • Your nurse will ask you to take deep breaths and cough to keep your lungs clear.
  • We will update your family on how you are doing and let them see you as soon as possible.
  • Your family will likely see you within the first hour after surgery. The family waiting room is outside of the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit after you have arrived to the unit.
    • They should be prepared to see you with many tubes, drains, and monitoring equipment. 
    • You will look pale and may look puffy from the fluid given during your operation.
    • The nurse will be able to help your family understand all of the special tubes, drains, and equipment.
    • We ask that your family wash their hands before touching you each time they enter your room to help prevent the spread of infections.
  • Depending on the amount of space in your room, 2 to 3 people may be able to visit at a time.
  • You will receive a CSICU Unit Brochure with information about visiting hours and unit guidelines.

Change of shift handoff between your oncoming nurse and your off going nurse occurs between 7-8 am and pm.  During this time it is important to minimize interruptions so that a thorough handoff occurs.  To make sure a good physical assessment is done, the nurse may ask visitors to step out of the unit briefly during that time.


Questions or Concerns, Please Call 804-828-2774


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