Once your surgical team is ready, you will be taken to the operating room where your anesthesiologist will begin administering general anesthesia.
Being put under general anesthesia is a serious but necessary part of your operation. Be sure to inform your anesthesiologist of any previous complications or concerns you have about undergoing general anesthesia.
Once you are in the operating room, you will be put to sleep with medication administered by an anesthesiologist using a small IV.
Multiple IV lines will be required for surgery, a breathing tube will help you breathe while you’re asleep, and a catheter will be placed in your bladder to remove any urine.
The catheter will still be in place when you wake up after surgery.
Depending on the exact type of heart surgery you are having, your cardiothoracic surgeon can choose from several different types of incisions.
The most common incision, called a sternotomy, involves a straight cut down the center of your chest. This incision allows the best access to your heart and surrounding structures and blood vessels.
Minimally invasive incisions are shorter and more horizontal than a sternotomy. Before surgery, ask which incision is best for your individual operation.
During the operation, you likely will be placed on a heart-lung machine (on-pump). This machine temporarily takes over the function of your heart and lungs during surgery to maintain blood circulation and oxygen flow through your body. After the surgery, you will be taken off the pump, and your heart and lungs will resume normal function. Some surgeons prefer to perform the surgery without a heart-lung machine (off-pump).
Your cardiothoracic surgeon will tell you the technique that will be used for your individual operation and provide additional details.
After the main part of the surgery is complete, drainage tubes will be placed in your chest and your sternum will be closed with surgical steel wires. These wires will stay in forever. They should not cause any problems and will not set off metal detectors.
Learn more about what to expect After Heart Surgery.
Reviewed by Robbin G. Cohen, MD, MMM