Frequently Asked Questions About Anesthesia for Cardiac Surgery
When do I need a cardiac anesthesiologist?
An anesthesiologist from the cardiac anesthesia team is scheduled for all heart surgery procedures regardless of the type.
Occasionally, it is appropriate for a cardiac anesthesiologist to deliver your anesthetic even if you are not having heart surgery. If you have any form of significant heart disease, discuss this with your surgeon in advance. You can also call our office for advice as to whether or not it would benefit you to have a cardiac anesthesiologist deliver your anesthetic.
When will I see my cardiac anesthesiologist?
Your cardiac anesthesiologist typically will visit you before your procedure if you are in the hospital preoperatively. If you are being admitted the morning of your surgery, we will make every effort to reach you by telephone the evening before surgery.
What can I expect from my cardiac anesthesia care?
Before your procedure, your anesthesiologist will do a thorough preoperative assessment of your medical history and present medical condition. This assessment is done by interviewing you, doing a physical exam, and by reviewing any test results and other information available in your records.
During the procedure, your anesthesiologist will prepare you for anesthesia and surgery by placing any appropriate monitoring devices and catheters. He/she will administer your anesthetic medication while closely monitoring and manipulating multiple physiologic parameters. This is done in harmony with the surgeon and perfusionist.
After the procedure, you’ll be cared for by highly-specialized cardiac surgery critical care nurses under the direction of your surgeon. A cardiac anesthesiologist is continually available during this period of time to provide consultative services as necessary.
Why do I need so many tubes and lines?
Anesthesia for cardiac surgery is a critical level of care and requires highly specialized physiologic monitoring.
Typical tubes and lines in cardiac surgery include an endotracheal tube (to support your breathing), transesophageal echocardiography (to monitor your heart with ultrasound images), central line IVs (to give fluid, blood, and medication) and arterial lines (to continuously monitor your blood pressure).
The placement of these tubes is either done after you are asleep, or under local anesthesia and sedation, so there is rarely any discomfort associated with placement.
Will I be awake during surgery?
Awareness under anesthesia for cardiac surgery is exceedingly rare. However, under certain very specific conditions, it is remotely possible you may have some awareness. This is true of any anesthetic. If you have specific concerns about this issue, your anesthesiologist can discuss it in detail with you.
What is cardiopulmonary bypass?
Many procedures require absolute "stillness" of the heart in order to successfully accomplish the procedure. In these cases, the patient is put on an artificial "heart-lung" machine. This machine takes over for the patient's heart and lungs while the surgery is performed on the heart and its vessels.
The "heart-lung" machine (cardiopulmonary bypass pump) is operated by a perfusionist, another highly trained individual involved in the care of the cardiac surgery patient. The perfusionist works in concert with your anesthesiologist and surgeon during this critical part of your surgery.
After the completion of the surgery, the patient's heart is "restarted" and allowed to take back its role from the bypass pump.
How long will I be asleep after heart surgery?
After heart surgery, patients are typically kept asleep for a period of time in intensive care for observation. The length of time is dependent on the patient's underlying heart condition, the patient's general health, and a number of other factors.
Typically you will awaken between 2–6 hours after completion of surgery. Occasionally, it may be significantly longer.
During this time, you will be on a ventilator (breathing machine). As you awaken, you will be weaned from the breathing machine, and the endotracheal tube (breathing tube) will be removed.
Your anesthesiologist and surgeon will be able to give you more specific information.
Will I be in pain after surgery?
Cardiac surgery is no different than other operations in this respect. Unfortunately, some discomfort is inevitable, but we make every effort to make the experience as pain-free as possible.
Pain control is primarily achieved with potent intravenous medications, though occasionally other techniques may be used on a case-by-case basis.