Cardiac surgery

Cardiovascular surgery is performed by one of KGH's cardiac surgeons on the heart or cardiac vessels. The most common type of heart surgery for adults is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG). During CABG, a healthy artery or vein is connected, to a blocked coronary artery to allow blood to flow around the blockage. Doctors also use heart surgery to repair or replace heart valves, which control blood flow through the heart. Your care team will include a cardiologist, cardiac surgeon, nurse practitioner, nurses, anesthesiologist, physiotherapist, dietitian and pharmacist. You may encounter a variety of other health providers while you are in the hospital. If you would like more information on how to prepare for your cardiac surgery, visit our surgical care section of the website

There are two different ways you could undergo this procedure, they are:

Inpatient

  • You will be admitted to KGH from either another hospital, the Emergency department, or KGH's Cardiovascular lab and will be prepared for surgery.
  • We will perform some routine blood tests, a chest x-ray and other imaging tests such as an ECHO, Cardiac angiogram or CT scan to help us better understand the type of care you require. For more information on these tests you can visit our heart test page.
  • You will speak with a cardiac surgeon and if a surgery is required, one will be booked.
  • We will provide you with a cardiac surgery booklet and education on what to expect. 
  • You can't eat or drink anything beginning at midnight before the day of your surgery. You can have a little water with your morning medications.
  • On the day of your surgery you will taken to the operating room for surgery then you will return to the cardiac sciences unit (CSU) to recover for approximately 24 hours.
  • When you awake from surgery you will notice that many tubes and wires are attached to you. These can include chest tubes, pacer wires, IV lines, an arterial line, a foley catheter and a cardiac monitor. The breathing tube will be removed shortly after you return from the operating room (usually within two-to-four hours). Shortly after the breathing tube is removed, you will be able to sit up in bed. 
  • Within 24 hours many of the other tubes will be removed and you may be transferred to another area in the hospital, such as Kidd 3 or Davies 3.
  • Once you are transferred to your inpatient room you will be expected to sit up in a chair at least three times per-day and begin walking in the hall.
  • You may have pain in your chest, back, shoulders, neck and legs from the surgery. You will be offered pain medication regularly to help manage your discomfort. You may also feel some shortness of breath or experience some palpitations during your recovery. 
  • Your health-care team will talk to you about sternal precautions, so you understand how to protect your chest during your recovery. 
  • You will be sent to the cardiac discharge class (which are offered on Monday and Thursday each week) before you go home. 
  • You can expect to remain in hospital for about four-to-seven days before you are discharged from the hospital. 

Outpatient

  • Your journey at KGH will begin when you are referred to the Cardiac Surgery Clinic by a cardiologist, internist or your family physician.
  • An appointment will be booked for you at KGH for a consultation with a cardiac surgeon.
  • If you and your surgeon agree to move ahead with a surgery, we will begin blood tests and do an ECG exam and chest x-ray during that appointment. If you do not want to go ahead with a surgery the cardiac surgeon may ask to follow your condition or make suggestions for your care to your cardiologist or family doctor.
  • The cardiac surgery office will call you and book your appointment for a Pre-Surgical Screening (PSS) appointment at Hotel Dieu Hospital.
  • You will meet with an anesthetist, a pharmacist and be asked to attend a cardiac surgery health class.
  • Once you are approved by the Pre-Surgical Screening office and the cardiac surgeon for surgery, we will call you and book a date for your surgery. 
  • On day of your surgery, you should arrive at the Same Day Admission Centre (SDAC) which is located on Connell 2 at KGH at the time discussed with you. 
  • On the day of your surgery you will be taken to the operating room for surgery then you will return to the cardiac sciences (CSU) unit to recover for approximately 24 hours.

  • When you awake from surgery you will notice that many tubes and wires are attached to you. These can include chest tubes, pacer wires, IV lines, an arterial line, a foley catheter and a cardiac monitor. The breathing tube will be removed shortly after you return from the operating room (usually within two-to-four hours). Shortly after the breathing tube is removed, you will be able to sit up in bed. 

  • Within 24 hours many of the other tubes will be removed and you may be transferred to another area in the hospital, such as Kidd 3 or Davies 3.

  • Once you are transferred to your inpatient room you will be expected to sit up in a chair at least three times per-day and begin walking in the hall.

  • You may have pain in your chest, back, shoulders, neck and legs. You will be offered pain medication regularly to help manage your discomfort. You may also feel some shortness of breath or experience some palpitations during your recovery. 

  • Your health-care team will talk to you about sternal precautions, so you understand how to protect your chest during your recovery. 

  • You will be sent to the cardiac discharge class (which are offered on Monday and Thursday each week) before you go home. 

  • You can expect to remain in hospital for about four-to-seven days before you are discharged from the hospital. 

Recovery information

As you recover from your surgery, there are a number of things to keep in mind. They are:

  • You will need to practice sternal precautions to protect your chest for a minimum of six weeks.
  • Do not lift, push or pull anything more than 5-10 lbs for six weeks.
  • You will be provided with a pillow to protect your chest when you get in and out of bed, get in and out of a chair and when you cough.
  • You should not drive for six weeks after your surgery. 
  • Follow your walking program outlined in your pink pre-surgical book.
  • We will refer you to the Cardiac Rehab program.
  • Call your surgeon's office or the cardiac program nurse practitioner if your incision is concerning you.  (For example, if your incision is leaking)
  • If you had valve surgery ask your health-care team about a valve card, dental care and your anticoagulation needs.
  • Make an appointment with your family doctor for approximately one week after you have been discharged from the hospital.
  • Your family doctor will remove any remaining staples or sutures from your incision(s). 
  • Your cardiac surgeon's office will contact you to book a follow up appointment.