When you wake up, you will be in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU). A team of specially trained physicians and nurses will monitor your care and help you recover safely and quickly.
The CTICU is a busy place. You can expect bright lights and many noises. These noises are the monitors and different types of equipment. Many of these machines continuously monitor your heart rate and rhythm and blood pressure to help your surgeon determine how well your heart is functioning. Try to tune the equipment noises out and relax.
You will become aware of the endotracheal tube (breathing tube) that was inserted while you were asleep. The tube is connected to a respirator that assists your breathing. While it is in place, you will not be able to talk or swallow.
The nurse will anticipate your needs and ask you questions that require only a yes or no answer. Nod or shake your head yes or no. The breathing tube will be removed when you are fully awake and able to breath on your own. Once it removed, you will be able to talk, however you may have a sore throat and a hoarse voice.
Deep breathing and coughing exercises, as well as changes in position, are extremely important to prevent postoperative pneumonia.
Deep Breathing and Coughing Exercises
When the breathing tube is removed, the nurses and respiratory therapists will help you do deep breathing and coughing exercises to inflate your lungs and cough out any secretions that have settled in your lungs during surgery.
You should change your position frequently while in bed.
You will have drainage tubes, called "chest tubes", to drain fluid which accumulates around your heart and lungs during surgery. The drainage from these tubes will be bloody at first. The tubes are removed when the drainage is clear and decreases in amount.
Fluids and medications are administered through an IV line in your neck. Immunosuppressant drugs will be administered through this IV until you are able to take fluids and eat.
You may experience pain when you first wake up. You will be given medications to control pain. Our pain control program is designed to keep you as comfortable as possible. However, if the medications affect your breathing and/or blood pressure, your physician may decrease the amount of pain medication given to you.
If you would like to use other methods of pain control, such as soothing music or relaxation tapes, small tape players with headphones are allowed in the CTICU.
Change in Heart Rate
It is normal for your new heart to beat faster at rest. Also, your heart rate will not rise as quickly with increases in activity. This may cause you to feel light-headed if you get up too fast from a resting position. You will need to get up slowly from lying or sitting and will need to warm-up when exercising.
Length of Stay
The length of stay in the CTICU varies with each patient. Your transplant team will determine the best time to be transferred to the Transplant Special Care Unit. This usually takes place within 2-3 days after transplant.