After surgery, you will go to the cardiothoracic surgery intensive care unit (ICU) where a doctor and nurses are always very close by if you need anything. At first, you will be under the effects of anesthesia. You will have many IVs, special tubes and initially a breathing tube. Once you wake up and breathe on your own, the breathing tube will be removed. With either incision, nerves can be cut resulting in various degrees of decreased sensation.

Various tubes and equipment will be used to monitor how well your lungs and body are recovering after surgery:

  • IVs (intravenous tubes) will help you receive fluids and medications. A special IV called a pulmonary artery catheter (Swan Ganz catheter) in your neck vein will measure the pressures in your heart and lungs and tell the surgeon how well your new lungs are functioning.
  • A heart monitor will record your heart rate and rhythm at all times.
  • Tubes in your chest near the bottom of your incision and possibly on the sides of your chest will drain the blood and fluid that collect in your chest after the operation. They are usually removed several days after the surgery.
  • A small tube, called a foley catheter, in your bladder will help us measure how well your kidneys are working. This tube will be taken out a couple of days after your surgery, and then you will urinate on your own.
  • An epidural catheter may be placed to manage your pain. Later you will receive IV pain medication that you dose yourself through a special patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) device.

A typical stay in the ICU is three to seven days. You will then be transferred to the thoracic surgery floor where our nurses and physical therapists will help you regain your strength, teach you how to care for yourself when you go home, and prepare you for discharge from the hospital. If all goes well, you can expect to spend one to two weeks on the thoracic surgery floor before your discharge. You may be asked to stay at the Mason Guest House or other local housing facility for general needs after discharge from the hospital.