Description of the Procedure
After you are asleep, the doctor will cut through the skin and breastbone. The chest cavity will be opened. Next, the heart will be connected to the heart-lung machine. This machine will take over the functions of the heart and lungs during surgery. Once the machine is active, the heart will be stopped.
A series of small cuts will be made in the atria. The cuts will be made in a maze-like pattern to direct the electrical impulses. The incisions will then be closed with sutures. In some cases, a pacemaker may need to be placed.
Once the maze-like pattern has been completed, the heart will be restarted. When the heart is working well, you will be removed from the heart-lung machine. The chest will be closed with wires. Finally, the skin will be closed with sutures.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
- Fluids and pain medicine will be given through an IV line. You may be given medicine to help control build up of fluids.
- Efforts will be made to get you out of bed and walking as soon as possible.
- You will be asked to do deep breathing and coughing exercises. This will help reduce the risk of fluid build up in your lungs.
- If a pacemaker was placed, you will be given instruction on its care.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce your chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your incisions
It can take up to six months to fully recover. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, which may include:
- Rest when needed. At first, it is normal to feel more tired than usual.
- Walk daily. Activity will help with the healing process.
- Take the pain medicine as directed. Some pain medicine causes constipation. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids and eat high-fiber foods.
- Keep the incision area clean and dry.
- Limit certain activities (eg, driving, working, doing strenuous exercise) until you have recovered.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.