Heart Surgery

Open heart surgery can be real painful on a family, just as it is to the person having it. My father had to undergo this procedure, and might have to undergo it again. This was a devasting time for my family and myself. This occurred almost two years ago. The evening before my father’s surgery they had him take a shower or bedside bath. They told him to use a special soap on his chest and legs. This special soap kills the bacteria on your skin and helps to prevent infection after surgery. The day of his surgery, he will have his body hair removed using a special “clipper” made especially for this purpose.

After the hair is removed they told him to take another shower or bedside bath using a special soap. After he had cleaned with the special soap, the nurse then inserted an intravenous (IV), and gave him an antibiotic medication that will be given with fluid through the soft tube. He was not able to eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before surgery. However, the doctor wanted him to take some of his medications the morning of his surgery. The doctor will tell you which medications to take with a sip of water.

Since he was admitted to the hospital overnight the nurse had brought him these medications to take with a sip of water. They then asked him to go to the bathroom before you are taken to surgery Open heart surgery is any surgery where the chest is opened and surgery is performed on the heart muscle, valves, arteries, or other heart structures (such as the aorta). The term “open” means that the chest is “cut” open. A heart-lung machine (also called cardiopulmonary bypass) is usually used during open heart surgery. While the surgeon works on the heart, the machine helps provide oxygen-rich blood to the brain and other vital organs.

The definition of open heart surgery has become confusing with new procedures being performed on the heart through smaller incisions. There are some new surgical procedures being done with the heart still beatin. As my father was undergoing through this whole ordeal there was a lot going on. First we were there the immediate family, also our pastor was present keeping us all in good faith. You can tell that my father was a little bit nervous, he smiled and laughed, but I notice he just looked un comfortable. To get access to the heart, the surgeon has to open the chest.

To do so, he or she has to cut through the breast bone (sternum). This is referred to as the sternotomy. The skin incision is generally smaller in size than the length of the breast bone, since the skin can be stretched to some extent. For repeat incisions ( a redo-sternotomy) often the length is a little longer than the previous scar. After the chest is opened, a part (or all) of the thymus gland is removed. The thymus gland is involved in the immune system; however, its removal has not been shown to lead to any immune compromise. The removal of the thymus is necessary to allow the surgeon to see and operate on the heart.

The heart sits in a thin, leather like sac called the pericardium. To get access to the heart, the pericardial sac has to be opened. The surgeon often removes a small portion of the pericardium, to be used later to patch holes in the heart. Often the removed piece is treated with a chemical called gluteraldehyde to increase the stiffness of the pericardium, making it easier to work with during surgery. The removed pericardial piece is used during the operation as patch material for a variety of holes or defects within the heart. The removed piece of pericardium does not need to be replaced.

At times however, a piece of a synthetic material called Gore-Tex membrane is used to replace the used pericardium. Typically this is done when the surgeon anticipates a repeat operation in the future and wishes to protect against injury to the heart during redo sternotomy. After the surgery was over my father was un responsive because the medication they had him on knocked him out. The surgery lasted for about 5 hours, and it was the longest 5 hours ever. During the surgery some more family had showed up from out of town. Shortly, after my father was given time to rest, he was awaken by the sounds and concerns of the family.

It was hard for my father to talk, because of his chest was still in pain a bit much. He only made short statements and hand squeezes to signal he heard us. My father was released to go home 4 days after the surgery took place. He was given a home health care nurse that would come every two days to replace my father bandages. He was really weak and couldn’t really move around like he use to. This was a stressful experience for my family and I. Currently my father is in good health, but he is in need of a new heart. The doctors said his heart is beating good right now, but in the future he is going to have to get a new heart.

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