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Post-operative care of the cardiac surgery patient

Martinette FerreiraConsultant in cardiovascular and aortovascular anaesthesia




Standard post-operative course

D 0

All patients

StabiliseWarm, wean, wakeWean vasopressorsExtubateMobiliseAnalgesia Prevent/treat N & V

D 1

Wean inotropes to OFFRemove chest drains (CXR)Remove urine catheter (FB)Disconnect pacingMobiliseAnalgesiaOral intakeERACS: Level 1

D 2 - 4

Continue with previous goalsRemove pacing wiresD 4 checks: CXR, weightERACS: D/C home

Location: ITU

Location: level 1

Location: Level 2 or 1

Oral intake: promote oral intake vs IV administrationN&V: treat aggressively. If persistent, investigate (CT)Abd distension: ileus vs iatrogenic vs perforationNBM: Poor absorption/ HypophosphataemiaPoor absorption: convert medication to IV, consider TPNInsulin: BM < 10 mmol/l Type 1 DM: continue with longacting insulin periopBNO: Senna/Docusate/Macrogol/Lactulose/Enema

GIT system

pO2: FiO2 & PEEP Aim: pO2 > 8 kPa pCO2: RR, Vt & I:E Permissive hypercapnoea (Not in pulm HTN, ICP) CXR: daily, if slow weaning/increasing vent requirements Fluid balance: Restrictive if high ventilatory requirementsHAP: All patients are at risk after 72 hours in ACCU Treat according to Trust/regional guidelines Practice antibiotic stewardship

Respiratory assessment

Urine output: > 0.5 ml/kg/h Co-amilofruse/FurosemideK+: Target > 4.5 mmol/lFluid balance: D0: +1000 to +1500 ml (baseline + 5 - 8 kg extra) D1: - 500 to -1000 ml (until baseline) except: high temp/complicated surgery/TAAARRT: Conventional vs citrate Increased morbidity & mortality Uraemia: GCS/confusion/GIT/N&V/pruritis

Renal function/ electrolytes

  • CKD
  • Nephrotoxic agents
  • Low CO/hypotensive
  • Perioperative ischaemia
  • Long/complicated procedure

Renal system

High risk patients

VTE: Pneumatic vs pharmacological High BMI Renal-adjusted dosisMechanical valves: Warfarin AVR: 2.0 - 2.5 MVR: 2.5 - 3.5AF: 20% of all cardiac patients Therapeutic anticoagulation after 48 h


Atrial fibrillation

  • Type of surgery
  • Length of surgery
  • Pre-existing cardiorespiratory comorbidities
  • Older patient (enlarged atria)
  • High BMI
  • CHAD2S2-VASc
Treatment: Beta-blockers Amiodarone DCCV
High-risk patients

GCS: E 4 M 5 S 6 Orientation / obeying commands Daily sedation wean Pupils: size, reactivity Mobility: localising signs Strength: critical illness neuropathy CVA: thrombectomy rarely indicated haemorrhagic transformation (serial imaging)Delirium: High prevalence; often missed/underdiagnosed LOS, morbidity, mortality Treatment difficult Prevention advised


HR: sinus rhythm vs paced rhythm vs arrhythmia Beta-blockers OK if spontaneous HR > 60 bpm Daily 12-lead ECGBP: are we achieving set target (Noradrenaline/Vasopressin) Targets: >65; 80 - 110; syst < 120CO: are we achieving an adequate output Warm, well perfused CO monitoring: SvO2, CI, SVR, PVR, PCWP Milrinone vs Adrenaline vs Levosimendan Monitor weaning (CO, lactate, peripheral perfusion)


  • Poor LV/RV ventricular function
    • MV repair/replacement
    • TV replacement
    • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Long CPB & DHCA
  • Complicated procedure
  • Less optimal myocardial protection
  • Irreversible pathology


High-risk patients

Acute Pain Management Team:Chronic pain/pain medicationMental health historyCatastrophisingHistory/current substance abuseExpected difficult pain control


  • COPD/Emphysema
  • Poor cough
  • High secretion load
  • Slow respiratory wean
  • Community-acquired infection before admission
  • Multi-organ failure


High risk patients

Postoperative pain management:Intra-operative: high-dose short-acting agent Loading with longer acting agentPost-operative:PCA (Morphine/Fentanyl/Oxycodone)If not used correctly - convert to regular oral analgesiaCodeine 100 mg = Morphine 10 mg (oral)Oxycodone IR 6.6 mg = Morphine 10 mg (oral)


  • Increased LOS ($$$)
  • Poor mobilisation / postop complications
  • Persistent postoperative pain
  • Increased morbidity

Poor pain control

Delirium:Older ageDisease severityPrior neurological diseasePrior mental health history (depression/schizophrenia)Substance abuseCPB timeSurgical complexityPerfusion management (flow rates, MAP, haematocrit)ITU admission (early onset and during prolonged admission)Sleep deprivationImmobility/physical restraintsProlonged mechanical ventilationMedications (BZP, steroids)


High risk patients