What to Expect
On the day of your procedure, you will meet your cardiac anesthesiologist. He or she will discuss with you important aspects of your health. In addition, your anesthesiologist will explain to you the anesthetic care plan, describe what to expect before and after your procedure, and address any concerns you may have.
After you have spoken with your anesthesiologist, you will meet the nurse who will help you to the operating room (OR). Once in the operating room, you will meet several additional members of the heart team including additional nurses and other OR staff who will help care for you during your procedure. They will help you move from the gurney on which you entered to the bed located in the operating room. The nurses will then apply several monitors including a blood pressure cuff, small stickers to monitor your heart rhythm, and additional stickers on your finger and forehead to monitor your oxygen levels. During this time, you may be given medication in your intravenous (IV) that will help you relax and often forget this portion of the experience. Prior to going completely off to sleep, your anesthesiologist will place an additional monitor called an arterial line typically at your wrist, which allows for continuous monitoring of your blood pressure. It is similar to an IV, except that it is placed in an artery rather than a vein. This is done by first thoroughly numbing the area with local anesthetic (similar to Novocain) so that following an initial pinch you should not experience discomfort.
At this point, your anesthesiologist will begin to give you oxygen to breath. You will then receive medication in your IV that will help you gently drift off to sleep. After you are completely asleep, a small breathing tube will be placed through your mouth and into your airway. The breathing tube allows your anesthesiologist to ensure you receive adequate oxygen and allows for the administration of medication (i.e. anesthetic gas) to ensure you are asleep during your procedure. Following the surgery, you will most likely go to the intensive care unit (ICU) with this breathing tube in place. You will continue to receive medication for comfort until the breathing tube can safely be removed, which occurs when your heart and lungs regained adequate strength.
Additionally, after you are asleep and prior to the surgery, your anesthesiologist will place a special IV (known as a central line) typically in the vein just above your collar bone. Placing this IV is necessary as those in the veins of the arm are not always reliable in delivering the medications your heart may need during and after surgery. This IV should not be painful, although it may be a bit annoying due to its location. While you are sleeping, your anesthesiologist will also likely assist your surgeon by performing an ultrasound (also known as a transesophageal echocardiogram) of your heart for which he or she has undergone specialized training and received certification to perform and interpret.
At the conclusion of the procedure, your anesthesiologist will go with you to the intensive care unit. He or she will stay with you in the ICU for a time to ensure your heart and lung function is stable. Your anesthesiologist will also communicate important information about your health status to the ICU team to assist them in caring for you during your hospital stay.
We are passionate about continually improving the way we care for our patients. In addition to ongoing individual efforts to provide the latest in quality anesthesia care, our team of cardiac anesthesiologists regularly meets and collaborates with the surgeons of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery Associates so that together we can provide you with the safest and most advanced perioperative care possible. More information is available online from the Colorado Valve Clinic.