A Practical Approach to Cardiac Anesthesia

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CHAPTER 10. Postoperative Care of the Cardiac Surgical Patient

Russell P. Woda and Robert E. Michler

Quick Links to Sections in this Chapter

–Transition from operating room to intensive care unit

–The early intensive care unit period

–Mechanical ventilation after cardiac surgery

–Principles of fast tracking

–Hemodynamic management in the postoperative period

–Postoperative pain and sedation management techniques.

–Metabolic abnormalities.

–Complications in the first 24 hours postoperatively.

–Discharge from the intensive care unit.

–Economics of postoperative planning and strategies.

–The transplant patient.

–Patients with mechanical assist devices.

–Family issues in the postoperative period.

Planning for postoperative management of a cardiac surgery patient begins preoperatively. This has become increasingly important in an era of fast tracking and cost-saving initiatives. Developing strategies to maximize postoperative resources poses an ever-increasing challenge. The purpose of this chapter is to describe many of the postoperative issues that must be considered when caring for the cardiac surgical patient.

  1. Transition from operating room to intensive care unit

    1. General principles

      1. The termination of the surgical procedure begins the process of preparing for the transition from the operating room to the postoperative recovery area. This may be represented by a move to an intensive care unit (ICU) or to an intermediate high acuity recovery area depending upon the local style of practice. The transition period from the operating room is a time where the anesthesia provider must exercise marked attention to details. Many factors must be addressed simultaneously.

      2. Hemodynamic monitoring must be carried out continuously. Careful attention must be given to systemic arterial blood pressure and intravascular volume status.

      3. Airway management must be a top priority, as careful attention to endotracheal tube patency and security must be maintained if the patient remains intubated. If a patient is extubated at the end of the surgery, close attention to the patient's anatomic airway must be maintained.

      4. Adequacy of ventilation must also be assessed. This may be done by providing adequate positive-pressure ventilation or by ensuring the patient's ability to spontaneously maintain an adequate tidal volume and respiratory rate. Attention must also be given to the status of any chest tubes to assure proper functioning in order to avoid a pneumothorax and be aware of any ongoing bleeding.

    2. The transport process

      1. The transport process begins with having a planned system for providing safe, efficient transport while maintaining a constant state of monitoring and vigilance. Transportation should not occur in a random, haphazard manner but rather a routine efficient system should be developed. Petre et al. [1] described an effective, well-organized transport method. Their system required modification of the operating room and ICU to create a transport technique that allowed for uninterrupted hemodynamic monitoring and continuous intravenous infusions. They pointed out that transport periods could vary from just a few minutes to substantially longer, depending upon the proximity of the operating suites to the recovery area.

      2. Transport to ICU

        1. Patient transport begins with patient movement from the operating room table to the transport bed. Movement can cause hemodynamic instability, as fluid shifts may occur or arrhythmias develop. Having ready access to a large-bore intravenous infusion port and to any ongoing or continuous infusions of medications is critical to managing this period safely and being able to respond promptly.

        2. The anesthesia provider must ensure adequate supplemental oxygen and adequate ventilation during transport. Smith and Crul [2] demonstrated that postoperative patients transported without supplemental oxygen had a high incidence of early postoperative hypoxia during transport. They attributed the hypoxic events to ventilation–perfusion mismatch that may result from dependent atelectasis. In the event of pretransport extubation, one also must consider the possibility of hypoventilation from the residual effects of anesthetics or neuromuscular blocking agents.

        3. Ventilation can be assured during transport in an intubated patient by using a bag-valve mask device or a transport ventilator. Several companies have developed compact ventilators that can be used during transport to ensure adequate positive-pressure ventilation and appropriate amounts of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) if necessary. Other ventilators designed for use in the postoperative period have battery backup systems that can be used for transportation. Portable ventilators can be very effective but may be cumbersome in view of all of the components that go into the transport process. If a bag-valve mask is used for transport, it must be assured that it is attached to an oxygen source to provide an increased fractional inspired concentration of oxygen (Fio2) to prevent the possibility of an hypoxic event. Many bag-valve systems also can be modified to provide PEEP during transport, but careful attention must be given to the fact that PEEP impairs cardiac preload and can depress cardiac function. Extubated cardiac patients must receive supplemental oxygen via mask or nasal cannula during transport. Adequacy of ventilation can be monitored by using a precordial or esophageal stethoscope and by direct observation of an adequate chest rise and a patent airway. Adequacy of oxygenation should be monitored with a transportable pulse oximeter, ideally one that is relatively resistant to motion artifact.

        4. Hemodynamic monitoring must be continuous and visible to the transport team and anesthesia provider. Systems have been designed that can transfer cables and transducers to the transport bed to allow uninterrupted monitoring. Some commercial systems allow transfer of the cables and transducers to the monitors in the recovery area, thereby providing the advantage of continuous monitoring throughout the transport process.

        5. Continuous infusions of medications and fluids must be maintained during transport. Due to the often variable time periods of transport between locations, discontinuation of drug infusions seems imprudent. Identifying and purchasing infusion devices that are compact and have adequate battery life is essential, as the amount of equipment that may be necessary for transporting a cardiac patient can be excessive. If the patient is stable, it may be reasonable to discontinue one or more intravenous infusions after flushing them in order to reduce "transport clutter" while assuring uninterrupted access to at least one large-bore intravenous cannula or port.

          Other variables that must be considered during transport depend on the operative interventions. Patients may be connected to pacemakers, intraaortic balloon pumps (IABPs), ventricular assist devices, nitric oxide, and multiple chest tubes, requiring diligence toward each device to ensure function and accessibility. Proper planning requires an assignment of duties to the transport team to determine who is responsible for which device so none is overlooked or to ensure no one person has more to manage than is feasible. Cooperation among the surgeons, perfusionist, respiratory therapists, and nurses directed by the anesthesia provider facilitates this process and results in a smooth transport process.

    3. Transfer of care to ICU personnel. Transferring the care of a cardiac patient to the ICU staff must be done in an orderly and methodical fashion. Upon arrival to the recovery area, it is important that the anesthesia provider identify the nurse who will assume responsibility for the patient and direct the transfer of equipment and information. When an uninterrupted system is developed, the transfer can be smooth and without incident. If all monitors and infusions must be disconnected and then reconnected, this period can be somewhat destabilizing. Careful attention must be given to prioritizing tasks, such as ventilator connection and continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) and arterial pressure monitoring while deferring extemporaneous personnel and clinical issues (e.g., drawing blood for laboratory tests) to a more appropriate time. The surgical team should provide transition information about the patient.

  2. The early intensive care unit period

    1. Initial review of the patient

      1. The initial review of the patient upon his or her arrival to the recovery area includes the patient's history, with information such as age, height, weight, preexisting medical conditions, a list of preoperative medications, and review of the most current laboratory findings (with special emphasis on potassium and hematocrit). The report should include a detailed review of the patient's cardiac status, including ventricular dysfunction, valvular disease, coronary anatomy, and details of the surgical procedure.

      2. An anesthetic review should be presented, which would include types and location of intravenous catheters and invasive monitors, along with any complications that occurred during their placement. A brief description of the anesthetic technique used should be discussed to help plan for a smooth emergence. A postcardiopulmonary synopsis should be reported, including the use of vasoactive, inotropic, and antiarrhythmic drugs, as well as any untoward events such as arrhythmias and presumed drug reactions.

      3. Early upon arrival to the ICU, the patient's heart rate and rhythm should be determined. If the patient is being paced, the settings should be reviewed and all electrodes identified and secured, as the patient may be dependent on the device.

    2. Transition to ICU monitors. The patient should remain hemodynamically monitored throughout the reporting period. If it is required that the patient be disconnected from hemodynamic monitoring and reconnected to the ICU system, careful detail should be used to assure a smooth transition, as early postoperative hemodynamics can fluctuate. An invasive arterial blood pressure and central filling pressures should promptly be achieved to help direct therapy for hemodynamic changes. If a pulmonary artery catheter is present, it should be connected and a baseline cardiac output established. Circulatory support devices, such as IABPs and ventricular assist devices, should be checked for adequate functioning.

    3. Laboratory tests. Few laboratory tests are needed in the early postoperative period. An initial arterial blood gas (ABG) should be drawn to ensure the adequacy of oxygenation and ventilation, whether the patient is on a mechanical ventilator or breathing spontaneously. A baseline potassium and hematocrit should be obtained. Acid–base status should be reviewed from ABGs and corrected as appropriate. Baseline coagulation parameters, including prothrombin time (PT), activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), and platelet count, should be acquired if the patient is bleeding excessively.

    4. Initial ventilator settings. Intubated patients must have their endotracheal tube evaluated for patency, security, and position. Patients who have no respiratory effort need to be placed in a full-support mode of ventilation, such as assist-control or synchronized intermittent mandatory ventilation (SIMV) with an adequate rate, tidal volume, and a small amount of PEEP (e.g., 5 cm H2O) to prevent postoperative atelectasis. Patients who have regained spontaneous ventilatory effort can be placed on a weaning mode of ventilation, such as SIMV at a lower rate with addition of some pressure support ventilation (PSV). PSV is used for two physiologic purposes:

      1. to overcome the resistance of the ventilatory system, which includes the ventilator, tubing, and endotracheal tube;

      2. to reduce the patient's work of breathing during weaning.

        An advantage of PSV is its titratable ability to match a patient's work of breathing, whereas SIMV is an all-or-none mode with any given breath. PSV by itself constitutes a true weaning mode in that the patient must "trigger" the ventilator with respiratory effort that is unaccompanied by a backup mode for apnea periods. PSV and SIMV modes can be combined. PEEP may be used with any of the aforementioned modes to prevent atelectasis, but caution must be exercised because excessive use of PEEP impedes venous return and may impair cardiac performance. Some suggestions have been made that the application of PEEP may decrease mediastinal bleeding [3]. The literature on this topic is inconsistent and this technique must be used with caution, as PEEP's adverse effects on hemodynamics are well established [4].

  3. Mechanical ventilation after cardiac surgery

    1. Hemodynamic response to positive-pressure ventilation. The normal physiology associated with spontaneous ventilation derives from negative-pressure development inside the chest cage and resultant airflow into the lungs. Placing a patient on a positive-pressure ventilator induces variable degrees of physiologic and hemodynamic change. Woda et al. [5] demonstrated that certain patterns of positive-pressure breathing in patients with preexisting lung disease can induce intrinsic PEEP. This intrinsic PEEP, also known as auto PEEP or occult PEEP, results from preexisting poorly compliant lungs as found in chronic obstructive lung (pulmonary) disease (COPD). This tendency toward the development of intrinsic PEEP increases in the presence of increased airways resistance from conditions such as bronchospasm, a small-caliber artificial airway, or marked amounts of secretions or debris in the airway. Many patients presenting for cardiac surgery have COPD in varying degrees of severity. Rapid respiratory rates and lower inspiratory to expiratory (I/E) ratios promote the development of intrinsic PEEP. Intrinsic PEEP has the same physiologic effects as applied PEEP. Lambermont et al. [6] demonstrated that application of PEEP decreased right and left ventricular end-diastolic volumes because of a reduction in venous compliance and an increase in peripheral blood pooling (increased venous capacitance). This venous pooling reduces cardiac output because of decreased cardiac preload.

      Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) has demonstrated that PEEP can cause leftward displacement of the interventricular septum and an attendant restriction of left ventricular filling. Jardin et al. [7] demonstrated that increasing amounts of PEEP were associated with a progressive decline in cardiac output, mean arterial pressure, and left ventricular dimensions and with equalization of right and left ventricular filling pressures. These findings suggest the need for careful application of PEEP in postoperative cardiac surgical patients.

    2. Pulmonary changes after sternotomy and thoracotomy. Performing cardiac surgery requires either a midline sternotomy or a thoracotomy to gain access to the heart and its surrounding anatomic structures. Both of these approaches temporarily compromise the function of the thoracic cage, which acts as a respiratory pump. Van Belle et al. [8] demonstrated significant reduction in total lung capacity, inspiratory vital capacity, forced expiratory volumes, and functional residual capacity 1 week postoperatively compared to preoperative values. Even at 6 weeks postoperatively, total lung capacity, inspiratory vital capacity, and forced expiratory volume remained significantly below preoperative values. These findings suggest a marked tendency toward postoperative atelectasis and the resultant possibility of hypoxemia from increased physiologic shunting. These changes in chest wall function can increase physiologic shunt to as much as 13% (compared to a baseline normal value of 5%).

      Impaired pulmonary function after cardiac surgery can result from increases in total lung water and dysfunctional diaphragmatic movement. Cold cardioplegia solutions may injure the left phrenic nerve, which impairs left diaphragmatic movement. This occurrence most often is temporary (days to weeks), but the decreased diaphragmatic movement creates a propensity for atelectasis.

    3. Choosing modes of ventilation

      1. Extubated patient. The patient's condition upon arrival to the ICU or recovery area strongly influences the selection of a ventilatory mode. If the patient was extubated in the operating room, supplemental oxygen may be all that is necessary postoperatively. Nevertheless, aggressive pulmonary toilet and frequent incentive spirometry must be performed to prevent the atelectasis and hypoxemia that may develop from the changes in chest wall function. If hypoxemia develops, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) using a face mask can be applied to improve the physiologic shunt that occurs from progressive atelectasis. If ventilation should become impaired, as evidenced by a rising PaCO2, face-mask positive-pressure ventilation can be used if available to temporize and potentially avoid reintubation of the trachea. This technique utilizes an apparatus similar to what is used for face-mask CPAP, and a rate of ventilation can be selected to deliver positive-pressure tidal volumes. Using face-mask ventilation requires an awake patient with a patent airway, confidence that the stomach is empty to ensure against aspiration, and the presence of a functioning nasogastric tube to remove any air that enters the gastrointestinal tract.

      2. Intubated patient

        1. If a patient returns from the operating room with an endotracheal tube in place, the choice of mechanical ventilation mode is based on the patient's inherent respiratory effort. If a patient is demonstrating an inspiratory effort, a weaning mode can be selected. The most common weaning method used is SIMV or PSV. SIMV allows selection of a guaranteed basal respiratory rate with intermittent spontaneous breaths taken by the patient. The delivered breaths are synchronized to avoid initiation of a breath during spontaneous exhalation. This avoids breath stacking and reduces the possibility of barotrauma. The number of mandatory breaths per minute can be weaned as the patient recovers and more frequent or deeper spontaneous breathing occurs. The spontaneous breaths can be supported by adding PSV and CPAP to assist in the work of breathing and in avoiding atelectasis. The weaning process progresses until the patient is spontaneously triggering all of the breaths in the breathing cycle and receiving minimal amounts of CPAP and PSV.

          If a patient returns from the operating room with an endotracheal tube in place and is not demonstrating any spontaneous respiratory effort, a full-support mode, such as assist control (AC) or SIMV, should be selected. AC is a full-support mode of ventilation where a set respiratory rate is delivered regardless of the patient's respiratory effort. If a spontaneous breath is initiated, the ventilator detects the trigger and delivers a set tidal volume breath. Weaning cannot be performed during this mode unless the ventilator is disconnected intermittently and the patient is connected to a T-piece apparatus.

        2. Patients who have marked difficulty with oxygenation after cardiac surgery may be given a full-support mode of ventilation with advancing amounts of PEEP. Often these patients require continuation of sedation and muscle paralysis to tolerate this type of ventilation scheme. If advancing amounts of PEEP are required, it may be helpful to place a pulmonary artery catheter (if one is not already present) to evaluate the hemodynamic effects of the positive pressure.

        3. Weaning from mechanical ventilation is a multifactorial event requiring diligence directed toward many issues. In many postoperative environments, this can best be accomplished by using an algorithm so that weaning can proceed methodically and without interruption. Figure 10.1 shows an algorithm that could facilitate efficient weaning.

          FIG. 10.1 Example of cardiac surgery ventilator weaning protocol.


          1. One must be sure that cardiac surgical patients are warm after surgery, as a cool environment is used in the operating room. Postoperative hypothermia can occur, which results in shivering, high oxygen consumption, and increased cardiac stress. Acid–base disorders must be identified and corrected according to their underlying cause. Residual anesthetics need to be cleared and a plan for sedation and analgesia during weaning established. Many centers have adopted routine use of propofol for sedation during weaning from mechanical ventilation due to its short, predictable duration of action. Laboratory abnormalities of electrolytes and hematocrit must be corrected to achieve successful weaning from mechanical ventilation. An appropriate heart rate and rhythm must be identified and any dysrhythmias managed. Bleeding from the chest tubes must be assessed and documented in order to avoid prematurely weaning the unstable patient who may require surgical reexploration.

          2. Weaning typically starts out in a volume ventilation mode such as SIMV by decreasing the number of guaranteed breaths by the ventilator. The ventilator does less as the patient is able to do more. During SIMV weaning, some CPAP can be added to the spontaneous breaths to prevent atelectasis. PSV can be added to the spontaneous breaths to overcome the resistance created by the breathing circuit and the endotracheal tube. Once the patient is breathing spontaneously with minimal CPAP and PSV, an evaluation for extubation can be done. Weaning can be performed without drawing ABGs after each ventilation change if noninvasive monitoring systems, such as pulse oximetry and end-tidal carbon dioxide measurement, are utilized. ABGs typically should be checked before extubation with minimal ventilator settings and a low Fio2 in order to evaluate the adequacy of oxygenation and ventilation under those conditions.

          3. Extubation can be carried out once evaluation of airway protective mechanisms, oxygenation, ventilation, and muscle strength are established. Some traditional weaning criteria, such as a negative inspiratory force (NIF) of 30 mm H2O or more or a vital capacity of 15 mL/kg or more require an alert, cooperative patient. It also is useful to establish a patient baseline respiratory rate and tidal volume, but these parameters may be altered by discontinuation of sedation immediately before extubation. One method for predicting the ability to be extubated is to evaluate the frequency of respiratory rate (f) as a ratio to tidal volume (TV) or the "rapid shallow breathing test" (f/VT). This weaning parameter was carefully evaluated by Yang and Tobin [9], who determined that if f/VT was 100 or less, there was an 80% chance of successful extubation. This is an attractive test to use because it is simple, does not require patient effort, and has a high predictive value.

          4. Patients must be encouraged to use incentive spirometry and to do deep breathing and coughing maneuvers after extubation to reduce atelectasis. One must be mindful of a variety of other physiologic causes of hypoxemia while managing the postextubation patient. Diffusion abnormality, low Fio2, hypoventilation, and V/Q mismatch along with shunt comprise the list of possibilities, with atelectasis being the most common. If hypoxemia persists and atelectasis is the presumed cause, mask CPAP can be used to improve oxygenation and decrease shunt.

          5. If hypercarbia is present in the postextubation period in an awake patient who can maintain a patent airway, noninvasive positive-pressure ventilation (NPPV) with a mask can be used for a short period of time. NPPV may be associated with a decreased incidence of nosocomial pneumonia as compared to endotracheal intubation. This mode of ventilation may be useful for certain cases of mild respiratory failure. Table 10.1 lists conditions in which NPPV would be contraindicated.

  4. Principles of fast tracking

    1. Goals of fast tracking. It has long been suggested that patients may do better after cardiac surgery if they are weaned from the ventilator and extubated as early as possible so they may be discharged earlier from the ICU and begin their postoperative cardiac rehabilitation programs, a technique that has been termed fast tracking. Other goals of fast tracking include early ambulation, early resumption of a regular diet, and prevention of potential complications of prolonged intubation (e.g., nosocomial pneumonia). This concept initially was conceived for the healthiest of cardiac surgery patients but has since become the goal for many patient groups representing varying severities of illness [10–12]. A combination of improving patient care via early extubation along with cost containment has driven the development of fast-track cardiac surgery techniques. Cost containment can be separated into various components. Respiratory therapists and nurses may find less time is spent managing patients who are extubated earlier, which could reduce staffing requirements. Reducing hospital and ICU lengths of stay reduces cost in cardiac surgery patients. Early postoperative extubation has long been thought to potentially benefit patients by restoring their cough reflexes earlier, thereby reducing atelectasis. Early extubation also may improve hemodynamics by restoring the normal physiology of negative intrathoracic pressures. Patient comfort may improve and less pain medication may be required with earlier extubation. Elderly patients, emergency cases, patients on an IABP, and those receiving inotropic support may not be good candidates for early extubation, however [13]. Also, those patients who have postoperative instability and complications such as stroke, bleeding, or dysrhythmias may fail early extubation protocols.

      Some investigators dispute the value of early extubation, finding that early extubation does not reduce ICU length of stay and may result in more complications. Montes et al. [14] showed that an early extubation population had more reintubations than did a group extubated in the ICU, with no difference in the length of stay in the ICU or total hospital time.

    2. Methods of fast tracking. A variety of anesthetic techniques can be used to facilitate fast tracking. Shorter-acting narcotics, such as alfentanil and remifentanil, provide opportunities for faster weaning from the ventilator. These shorter-acting intravenous narcotics can be combined with intrathecal opioids to enhance postoperative analgesia [15,16]. Propofol infusions have been added to the cardiac anesthetic repertoire because of a predictable and rapid recovery profile that is almost independent of the duration of infusion. This property makes this technique desirable not only as a component of general anesthesia, but also as a sedative agent in the early postoperative management of fast-track cardiac surgery patients. Caution is needed when short-acting agents are used to set the stage for early extubation, as the incidence of intraoperative awareness may be as high as 0.3% [17].

    3. Fast tracking in the postanesthesia care unit. Many institutions prepare for the postoperative management of cardiac surgery patients by developing enhanced step-down or postanesthesia care units (PACUs), where postoperative management can occur safely and efficiently. These units require nurses who understand fast-tracking techniques, so that patients who have undergone cardiac surgery can move smoothly through early extubation in preparation for early transfer to a regular nursing unit. These specialized postanesthesia care units can be very effective in providing fast-track techniques because of their focused effort in caring for fast-track cardiac surgery patients.

    4. Utilizing protocols. Developing and utilizing institution-specific fast-track protocols revolves around systematic plans for weaning patients from ventilators and managing routine postoperative issues to facilitate the progression toward early ICU and hospital discharge. Protocols ideally address most issues before they occur. Protocol development should be carried out jointly by all members of the perioperative care team before a fast-tracking program is initiated.

  5. Hemodynamic management in the postoperative period

    1. Monitoring for ischemia. Monitoring the postoperative cardiac surgical patient for myocardial ischemia is essential, and it is important to treat clinically significant changes in blood pressure, heart rhythm, and cardiac output as if they either result from or may cause myocardial ischemia. Ischemia can be detected by utilizing a continuous ECG with ST-segment analysis, although there is a slight delay in diagnosis of ischemia using this method. Many bedside ECG monitoring systems have ST-segment analysis built into their software algorithms, which is a cost-effective method of monitoring for ischemic events. Other indicators of myocardial ischemia include pulmonary artery pressures and cardiac output, which tend to be less reliable and often late markers of myocardial ischemia. TEE segmental wall-motion abnormalities represent the most sensitive early detector of myocardial ischemia, but continuous monitoring usually is unfeasible because the TEE probe (if used) typically is removed at the end of surgery [18].

      Intraoperative and ongoing postoperative ischemia can be detected as soon as 6 hours after the event begins by examining some specific cardiac markers. The earliest and most useful marker is cardiac troponin I (cTnI) [19]. The ability to measure cTnI is particularly useful in cases where ECG monitoring is difficult to interpret, such as with left bundle branch block or left ventricular hypertrophy. This biologic marker gives clear evidence for an ischemic event.

    2. Ventricular dysfunction after cardiac surgery. Ventricular dysfunction after cardiac surgery may be multifactorial. Inadequate myocardial protection, myocardial hyperthermia, small blood vessels, incomplete revascularization, and reperfusion injury all can contribute to postoperative ventricular dysfunction. Preoperative predictors of postoperative ventricular dysfunction include cardiac enlargement, advanced age, diabetes mellitus, female gender, high left ventricular end-diastolic pressures at cardiac catheterization, small coronary arteries, and ejection fraction less than 0.40. Intraoperative predictors include longer cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) and aortic cross-clamp times. These factors increase the likelihood of needing inotropic support in the postoperative period. When patients present to the operating room with impaired ejection fractions and have long CPB periods, there is a high incidence of requiring inotropic support postoperatively. Patients who have normal cardiac performance and short periods of CPB have a much lower likelihood of requiring postoperative inotropic support.

      Most practitioners utilize -adrenergic agonists (-agonists) when there is a need to improve ventricular function after CPB. Depletion of endogenous catecholamines and the resulting -receptor down-regulation can blunt the response to -agonists. Increased G-inhibitory proteins, reperfusion injury, tachycardia, incomplete revascularization, and nonviable myocardium also may attenuate the inotropic response to -agonists.

      Agents chosen to treat ventricular dysfunction after cardiac surgery typically utilize 1-agonism as their primary method of improving cardiac function. Other mechanisms available include phosphodiesterase inhibitors such as amrinone and milrinone, which work to augment -adrenergic stimulation by inhibiting the breakdown of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). The agents most frequently used to cause 1-agonism are dobutamine, dopamine and epinephrine, each of which has its own inherent hemodynamic profile and side effects.

    3. Fluid management. Managing postoperative fluids after cardiac surgery can be challenging. Cardiac surgical procedures, especially those involving CPB, typically result in fluid sequestration by "third spacing." Therefore, most cardiac surgery patients reach the recovery area with excess fluids present that must be mobilized. Healthy patients who have adequate cardiac and renal function typically diurese these fluids over the first 2 postoperative days without assistance. Other cardiac surgery patients, such as the elderly or those with renal or cardiac dysfunction, may require diuretic drugs to remove excess body water.

      Cardiac surgical patients frequently require allogenic blood products. CPB priming solutions cause hemodilution, which causes patients to arrive in the ICU with relatively low hemoglobin and hematocrit measurements. Many times the mobilization of free water through diuresis returns the red cell mass to an acceptable level. Some patients require administration of packed red blood cells to arrive at adequate hematocrit values due to excessive intraoperative or postoperative bleeding or to preexisting anemia. Controversy exists over what is the lowest postoperative acceptable hematocrit for cardiac surgery patients. Although no absolute number has been proven, maintaining adequate oxygen-carrying capacity in the face of a potentially limited ability to increase cardiac output or coronary blood flow must be considered. In patients with limited reserve, it may be necessary to maintain a higher hemoglobin concentration, e.g., 9 to 10 g/dL, than in patients who can compensate normally for anemia. For most cardiac surgical patients, a hemoglobin concentration of 8 to 9 g/dL is adequate for postoperative recovery.

      Administration of coagulation factors must be addressed. Patients who leave the operating room and arrive in the recovery area with coagulopathy may require administration of fresh frozen plasma or platelet concentrates to improve clot formation. Many patients may have a postoperative bleeding propensity because of residual effects from the preoperative administration of various platelet inhibitors (e.g., aspirin, clopidogrel). Platelet concentrates or possibly desmopressin may be necessary to reverse this state. One must consider the possibility that residual heparin effect or heparin rebound may be present, which may require neutralization with protamine.

    4. Managing hypotension. Postoperative cardiac surgery patients frequently can have hypotension, the etiology of which must be evaluated in order to optimize therapy. If adequate preload and a normal cardiac rhythm are present, hypotension represents either inadequacy in cardiac function or vasodilation. Inadequate cardiac function sometimes can be managed by administering fluids to increase cardiac preload. However, it is critical to recognize that ventricular function or myocardial ischemia may be worsened by excessive fluid administration. Vasodilation demands scrutiny for contributory drugs such as vancomycin, nitroglycerin, or diltiazem.

    5. Dysrhythmia management. Continuous monitoring of the ECG may identify dysrhythmias in postoperative cardiac surgery patients. A variety of dysrhythmias can occur that are either atrial or ventricular in origin. Patients with ongoing myocardial ischemia, possibly from incomplete revascularization or myocardial stunning, probably are predisposed to dysrhythmias. Managing postoperative dysrhythmias constitutes an important part of ICU care in cardiac surgery patients. Atrial fibrillation is the most common clinically significant dysrhythmia to occur after cardiac surgery, and it may occur in as many as one third of patients who undergo myocardial revascularization using CPB. Useful drugs for treating atrial fibrillation include procainamide, digoxin, diltiazem, esmolol, and amiodarone. It has been shown that various preoperative or postoperative pharmacologic prophylactic strategies may reduce the incidence of postoperative atrial fibrillation or other atrial dysrhythmias [20]. Using prophylaxis against atrial fibrillation may benefit the patient by decreasing both the number of days spent in the ICU and the total length of stay in the hospital.

    6. Perioperative hypertension.

      See Related Case Study from Yao & Artusio's Anesthesiology


      Perioperative hypertension can result from a number of causes.

      1. One of the most important and earliest mechanisms is emergence from anesthesia. This may present a challenge in hypertensive management as the anesthetics are cleared.

      2. Another cause of postoperative hypertension is withdrawal from preoperative antihypertensive medications. -Blockers and centrally acting 2-agonists are known to elicit rebound hypertension upon withdrawal.

      3. Some causes of acute postoperative hypertension include hypercarbia, hypoxemia, deficient analgesia, intravascular volume excess, and hypothermia. One must consider iatrogenic causes, such as administration of the wrong medication or use of a vasoconstrictor when it was not necessary.

      4. Unusual causes include intracranial hypertension (from cerebral edema or massive stroke) and bladder distention. Rare causes to consider include endocrine or metabolic disorders such as hyperthyroidism, pheochromocytoma, renin– angiotensin disorders, and malignant hyperthermia.

    7. Pulmonary hypertension. Pulmonary hypertension may occur after cardiac surgery, the causes of which can be divided into new-onset acute pulmonary hypertension and continuation of a more chronic pulmonary hypertensive state.

      1. Chronic pulmonary hypertension is less responsive to traditional therapeutic interventions. Chronic elevation in the pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR) creates a challenging scenario with respect to the ability of the right ventricle to function adequately against increased resistance. Chronic pulmonary hypertension is managed by continuing any ongoing medications that the patient has been taking, such as calcium channel blockers, along with utilizing therapeutic agents mentioned below (see Section V.G.2) for management of acute pulmonary hypertension.

      2. Acute postoperative pulmonary hypertension must be managed aggressively to avoid right ventricular failure. First and foremost, hypoxemia and hypercarbia must be ruled out and managed as treatable causes of acute pulmonary hypertension. Ongoing acidosis (metabolic or respiratory) that has been untreated also contributes to the development of pulmonary hypertension. Left ventricular failure, mitral stenosis or regurgitation, and pulmonary venous thrombosis should be considered. Therapeutic interventions that can be useful to treat pulmonary hypertension include inhaled nitric oxide, nitroglycerin, sodium nitroprusside, prostacyclin, and phosphodiesterase III inhibitors. With the exception of nitric oxide, these agents also can reduce systemic vascular resistance (SVR) to cause systemic arterial hypotension. The balance of managing pulmonary hypertension and systemic hypotension can be very challenging, often requiring a combination of agents. It may become necessary to infuse a vasoconstrictive agent to increase SVR while administering an agent to lower PVR. This maneuver can be very complex and contradictory in that most agents that increase SVR also increase PVR. Vasopressin should be considered as an agent that may increase SVR without proportionately increasing PVR.

  6. Postoperative pain and sedation management techniques. Managing postoperative pain and agitation are paramount in caring for the postoperative cardiac surgery patient. Pain represents a response to nociceptor stimulation from the surgical intervention. Patients may be agitated after cardiac surgery for a variety of reasons. Table 10.2 lists some possible causes of agitation that must not be overlooked because of the potential that they might be inappropriately "masked" by administration of a sedative drug.

    1. Systemic opioids. A variety of techniques can be used to manage postoperative pain. It is very useful to initially discern the type, quality, and location of pain before administering an analgesic agent. Commonly used opioids include fentanyl, morphine, hydromorphone, and meperidine. All of these agents are narcotic agonists that work through the -receptor mechanism to provide analgesia. Butorphanol and nalbuphine are narcotic agonist–antagonists that can be used to provide analgesia while minimizing the chance of respiratory depression. Table 10.3 lists commonly used analgesic agents for postoperative pain along with loading and maintenance dosing.

    2. Intrathecal opioids. In the era of fast-tracking patients through the postoperative period, several regional analgesic techniques have been pursued to improve patient comfort. Systemic (intravenous, intramuscular, transcutaneous, or oral) opioids can cause respiratory depression and somnolence, making them potentially undesirable for fast tracking. Intrathecal narcotics constitute an alternative to systemic opioids. This route has been explored in an attempt to improve patient comfort with less respiratory depression and other side effects. Intrathecal opioids can facilitate early extubation and discharge from an ICU without compromising pain control or increasing the likelihood of myocardial ischemia [21]. Intrathecal morphine may be useful in attenuating the postsurgical stress response in coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) patients as measured by plasma cortisol and epinephrine concentrations [22]. This evidence suggests that intrathecal opioids may be an excellent pain management choice in preparing the cardiac surgical patient for early extubation and fast tracking in the ICU.

    3. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs. Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be helpful when managing postoperative pain in cardiac surgery. A small amount of drug can provide analgesia without excessive sedation and other complications associated with narcotic use. A concern with NSAIDs is their inhibition of platelet function and the potential for increased bleeding. NSAIDs also have been considered a poor choice after cardiac surgery because of their tendency to induce gastric ulcer formation and impair renal function. Renal insufficiency, active peptic ulcer disease, history of gastrointestinal bleeding, and bleeding diathesis should exclude the use of NSAIDs in the postoperative cardiac surgery patient [23].

    4. Nerve blocks. A variety of systemic and intrathecal analgesic techniques have been reviewed. Although these techniques are useful, each has inherent risks and complications. Nerve blocks constitute a potential alternative to these methods. Intercostal nerve blocks can be performed with ease during thoracic surgery procedures, as the intercostal nerves are easily accessible through the surgical field. These blocks also can be performed percutaneously by the anesthesia provider preoperatively or postoperatively. Intercostal blocks do not provide satisfactory analgesia for a median sternotomy. Thoracic epidural analgesia for cardiac surgical procedures requiring CPB is considered acceptable by some practitioners. Others consider the risk of epidural hematoma, however small, to be a deterrent in the face of the hypocoagulable state present during and after CPB.

  7. Metabolic abnormalities. Many metabolic abnormalities can occur in the perioperative period. These irregularities result from large fluid and electrolyte shifts that can result from intravenous infusions or from CPB priming or myocardial protectant solutions.

    1. Electrolyte abnormalities

      1. Hyperkalemia can present from cardioplegia, overaggressive replacement, or from secondary extracellular shifts associated with respiratory or metabolic acidosis. Hypokalemia is more common than hyperkalemia, and it is commonly associated with dilution or ion shifts associated with hyperventilation and urinary losses. Potassium supplementation can be infused carefully at a maximum rate of 20 mEq/hour via a central venous catheter, as rapid potassium infusion can induce lethal arrhythmias.

      2. Hypocalcemia may be present and may be related to rapid transfusion of large amounts of citrate-preserved bank blood. Hypocalcemia can be treated with 250- to 1,000 mg intravenous doses of calcium chloride or calcium gluconate, while paying careful attention to the development of dysrhythmias. When following the calcium status, it is important to measure ionized calcium and not total calcium, because low albumin levels may decrease total calcium levels, while ionized calcium remains normal.

      3. Hypomagnesemia is a common perioperative electrolyte abnormality. Hypomagnesemia may result from dilution by large CPB primes and by urinary excretion. If magnesium supplementation is required, it can be given in amounts of 2 to 4 g intravenously over 30 to 45 minutes. An infusion of 1 g/hour of magnesium sulfate can be used as well to assure a slow, steady infusion of this substance. If given too fast, it may cause hypotension. In refractory dysrhythmias, particularly of the ventricular type, a normal serum magnesium concentration may not exclude the possibility of decreased total body stores of magnesium.

    2. Shivering. Many patients arrive in the ICU with a tendency toward shivering. The exact mechanism of shivering is difficult to discern, but it is thought to be associated with inadequate rewarming and temperature fluctuation. Many patients are hypothermic when they arrive in the ICU and develop shivering as they emerge from anesthesia. Shivering can result in a 300% to 600% increase in oxygen demand, which potentially places unachievable oxygen delivery demand upon a compromised myocardium. The associated increase in CO2 production may cause respiratory acidosis. Effective first-line treatments include active rewarming and prevention of further temperature loss or meperidine and sedation. Sustained shivering frequently will require mechanical ventilation.

    3. Acid–base disorders. Acid–base disorders can occur as a result of inadequate blood flow during a period of increased metabolic demand. Respiratory acidosis most often results from hypoventilation or increased CO2 production. Residual anesthetics or an awakening patient with inadequate analgesia combined with impaired respiratory mechanics may lead to hypoventilation. Metabolic acidosis, when present, is associated frequently with inadequate systemic perfusion because of compromised cardiac function. In the presence of acid–base disorders, repeated ABG measurement will be required in the early postoperative period. Metabolic acidosis in a cardiac surgery patient may require administration of sodium bicarbonate to correct the underlying acidosis. This should be done with caution, as the etiology of the metabolic acidosis should be determined and managed as well. Lactic acidosis, a frequent finding in cardiac surgery patients, needs to be managed by assuring adequate cardiac output, intravascular volume, and appropriate management of shivering.

    4. Glucose management. Many patients presenting for cardiac surgery have a history of either adult-onset or juvenile diabetes. Many of these patients withhold their therapy, either insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents, on the day of surgery. This can result in wide swings in serum blood glucose, which must be assessed and addressed early in the patient's postoperative care. Careful control of blood glucose levels, preferably by maintaining blood glucose at less than 200 mg/dL with frequent monitoring, is important in these patients. Unrecognized hyperglycemia can result in excessive diuresis and the potential for a hyperosmolar or ketoacidotic state. Elevated serum glucose can be managed by using a continuous infusion of regular insulin and a dextrose-containing solution, often starting at a dose of 0.1 units/kg/hour or less with titration to the desired serum blood glucose level.

      Perioperative hyperglycemia may be especially prevalent in programs where fast-track clinical pathways are used [24]. One institution examined this potential and discovered that preoperative diabetes, pre-CPB administration of glucocorticoids, volume of glucose-containing cardioplegia solutions administered, and use of epinephrine infusions were associated with the development of perioperative hyperglycemia. These conditions frequently occur and can precipitate the need for aggressive management of postoperative hyperglycemia using insulin.

  8. Complications in the first 24 hours postoperatively. A number of life-threatening complications can occur in the first 24 hours after cardiac or thoracic surgery. Due to the relative instability of these patients in their early postoperative care, it is essential that the postoperative care provider identify and respond promptly to the development of the most common postoperative complications.

    1. Respiratory failure. Respiratory failure may be the most common postoperative complication of cardiac or thoracic surgery. Pulmonary dysfunction develops from the surgical incision and its attendant disruption of the thoracic cage. Uncontrolled postoperative pain exacerbates this effect. Respiratory failure can present as hypoxemia, hypercarbia, or both. Prompt identification and appropriate treatment of respiratory failure are essential to managing postoperative cardiac and thoracic surgery patients. Respiratory failure causes must be scrutinized to avoid overlooking such serious complications as pneumothorax, acute congestive heart failure, and prosthetic valve failure.

    2. Bleeding. Some patients experience persistent bleeding after cardiac or thoracic surgery. Bleeding typically is monitored by the amount of blood that drains into the chest tubes after surgery. Persistent postoperative bleeding must be managed by providing the appropriate therapy based on the etiology of the blood loss. It is critical to differentiate a bleeding diathesis from a surgical bleeding situation requiring reoperation; therefore, it is essential to determine the status of the coagulation system, which traditionally is done by acquiring (at a minimum) PT, activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), and platelet count. This panel of tests does not give any indication about the functional status of the platelets. This is particularly important in managing cardiac patients who have received preoperative therapy with aspirin or other platelet inhibitors to prevent thrombosis during the period leading up to corrective surgery. Transfusion of platelet concentrates may be appropriate when one suspects that the bleeding results from platelet dysfunction, which may be caused by either preoperative platelet inhibitors or CPB.

      During this process, one must consider surgical bleeding as a cause of high blood losses. Surgical bleeding often is considered once coagulopathy has been ruled out, and it may require a return to the operating room for mediastinal or thoracic exploration to identify and cauterize or ligate a bleeding site. Transport of these patients may be difficult because of hemodynamic instability.

      Sudden hemorrhage from a suture line or cannulation site can cause profound hypotension due to hypovolemia or tamponade. Rapid volume infusion of blood products, colloids, or crystalloids is necessary to maintain intravascular volume. Patients who are quickly stabilized are transferred to the operating room for sternotomy or thoracotomy to repair the bleeding site. In some instances, emergency sternotomy must be performed in the ICU to stop a bleeding site that has created relative instability. In general, chest tube drainage greater than 500 mL/hour or sustained drainage exceeding 200 mL/hour justifies surgical reexploration.

    3. Cardiac tamponade.

      See Related Case Study from Yao & Artusio's Anesthesiology


      Excessive mediastinal bleeding with inadequate drainage or sudden massive bleeding can result in cardiac tamponade. Cardiac tamponade after cardiac surgery may be confusing if the pericardium has been opened, suggesting to the inexperienced observer that tamponade cannot occur. However, this is not true because tamponade may occur in loculated areas. The differential diagnosis typically includes biventricular failure, and transthoracic echocardiography or TEE may be required to make a definitive diagnosis.

    4. Pneumothorax. Pneumothorax can occur in patients who have undergone sternotomy or thoracotomy. Most often this patient population arrives in the recovery or ICU area with one or more chest tubes in place. It is essential for patients to have a baseline postoperative chest x-ray film to confirm the adequacy of the placement of the chest tubes and the absence of a pneumothorax. Pneumothorax can convert to tension pneumothorax when a one-way valve is present, causing elevated intrapleural pressure. The result can be a shift of mediastinal structures causing mechanical obstruction of the vena cava or the heart itself to cause a low cardiac output state and hypotension.

    5. Hemothorax. Hemothorax can occur after coronary artery bypass surgery and must be considered in all patients who have undergone internal mammary artery dissection, which most often involves opening the left intrapleural space. These patients may need to be returned to the operating room for surgical management.

    6. Acute graft closure. Acute coronary graft closure is uncommon and can result in myocardial ischemia or infarction. If cardiac decompensation does occur and graft closure is the suspected cause, reexploration should be performed to evaluate graft patency. However, it usually is difficult to know whether a graft has closed, and reexploration for this reason is uncommon. These patients may need to be taken to the cardiac catheterization laboratory, where emergent cardiac catheterization can be performed to discern the presence of an occluded graft.

    7. Prosthetic valve failure. Acute prosthetic valve failure should be suspected when sudden hemodynamic changes occur following open heart surgery, particularly if the rhythm is unchanged and intermittent loss of the arterial waveform is noted on the monitor screen. Immediate surgical correction is necessary. Valve dehiscence with a perivalvular leak usually does not present in the early postoperative period.

    8. Postoperative neurologic dysfunction. Neurologic complications can occur in the postoperative period. These complications can be divided into three groups: focal ischemic injury (stroke), diffuse encephalopathy (global hypoperfusion syndrome), and peripheral nervous system injury. Normothermic CPB and continuous blood cardioplegia have become popular. This technique, while sparing the myocardium, may be associated with an increased risk of neurologic complications. Few laboratory tests exist that help predict and monitor neurologic complications after bypass. The serum S100 protein has been shown to correlate with long CPB perfusion times and with postoperative central nervous system dysfunction.

  9. Discharge from the intensive care unit. Discharge from the ICU historically has occurred 1 to 3 days after cardiothoracic surgery. Reducing the amount of time spent in the ICU after cardiac surgery recently has become a priority. Many patients now are discharged from the ICU on the morning after routine CABG operations, with no compromise in patient care or safety. Complications such as those noted earlier often delay ICU discharge. Some centers place routine CABG patients in an ICU-level recovery area for several hours before discharging them to a "step-down" or intermediate care area, or even to a "monitored bed" postoperative nursing unit.

    The criteria for ICU discharge vary depending upon the type of surgery. Predicting which patients can leave the ICU in an early fast-track style can be accomplished by reviewing a variety of preoperative risk factors. Ejection fraction can be a valid predictor of mortality, morbidity, and resource utilization when statistically applied to a cardiac surgery population [25]. Other preoperative predictors of prolonged ICU stays include cardiogenic shock, age greater than 80 years, dialysis-dependent renal failure, and surgery performed emergently [26]. These factors and others can be used to predict a patient's length of stay and plan for resource utilization.

  10. Economics of postoperative planning and strategies. With the ever-increasing interest in fast-tracking patients through an ICU or recovery room, opportunities to reduce the costs of cardiac and thoracic surgery have arisen. Postoperative cost reduction can be divided into a variety of categories. By adopting a fast-track program, one might realize cost reduction via decreased length of stay in the ICU, decreased laboratory testing, decreased time on a ventilator, and decreased overall length of time in the hospital. Fast-tracking strategies can reduce length of stay in the ICU, yet this reduction has not consistently resulted in a decreased overall length stay in the hospital. Finding techniques and methods to shorten overall length of stay and reduce costs continues to generate strong interest and investigation.

    Off-pump coronary artery bypass surgery (OPCAB) constitutes a further attempt to decrease postoperative complications and resource utilization. The economic aspects of this type of surgery, where patients are not placed on CPB, have been evaluated in some studies. Studies have suggested that OPCAB reduces costs by decreasing ICU length of stay, but these savings may be offset by increased intraoperative costs (depending upon techniques and equipment utilized) or by an increased incidence of required cardiac interventions after hospital discharge. At this time, it is not possible to state with certainty that OPCAB reduces long-term costs or improves long-term clinical outcomes. The OPCAB technique has proven safe in many different types of patients, including the elderly [27]. Continuing improvements in pain relief and early extubation should enhance economic savings.

  11. The transplant patient. Cardiac transplant patients historically have spent long periods postoperatively on mechanical ventilation, with attendant prolonged ICU stays. Recent application of fast-track strategies has shortened times to extubation and provided earlier postoperative mobilization for these patients.

  12. Patients with mechanical assist devices. Recent technologic advances have facilitated development of mechanical assist devices for cardiac surgery patients with severely impaired right or left ventricular functions. The number of assist devices available continues to grow, resulting in options for left ventricular, right ventricular, or biventricular mechanical assistance. Postoperative management of patients with mechanical assist devices requires a thorough understanding of the technology underlying any device that may be chosen. Often perfusionists participate continuously in the ICU to manage the ventricular assist devices.

    The list of clinical considerations for a patient on a mechanical assist device is lengthy. Device-specific considerations include maintenance of an appropriate heart rate and filling status, as many of these devices are preload dependent. Coagulation abnormalities are a frequent concern when patients are brought to the ICU with implanted mechanical devices. These patients have clear tendencies toward coagulopathy and need to be treated carefully with appropriate blood products to achieve the targeted coagulation status.

    Other considerations that must be met during the ICU period include adequate oxygenation and ventilation using a mechanical ventilator, along with maintenance of temperature, nutrition, acid–base balance, and electrolyte balance. Patients with mechanical assist devices can be weaned from the ventilator using standard weaning protocols depending upon their hemodynamic, blood gas exchange, and neurologic stability. Often a mechanical device can be implanted as a short-term technique for managing a patient's unstable hemodynamic state with an anticipated plan to return to the operating room at a later date to remove the device. This influences one's decision about weaning a patient from mechanical ventilation by possibly carrying out the weaning process without actually removing the endotracheal tube because of an impending trip back to the operating room. In other circumstances, mechanical assist devices are used as bridges to cardiac or cardiopulmonary transplantation when patients' hemodynamic stability cannot be maintained without this intervention. In these situations, each individual patient's cardiopulmonary stability dictates the plan for weaning from mechanical ventilation.

  13. Family issues in the postoperative period. Interaction with families is important in communicating any patient's status and in giving appropriate expectations concerning recovery. Cardiac surgeons consider communication with family members to be a vital part of surgical planning, and information is made readily available at a variety of venues.

    1. The preoperative discussion. The preoperative discussion is important because the surgeon and anesthesiologist can give a detailed description of what can be anticipated in the postoperative period. This information can be relayed to patients either through preoperative visitations or through video or web site access describing typical postoperative events. Preoperative visitation allows patients the opportunity to ask questions and to understand the plan of movement through the postoperative course. Many times anesthesiology preoperative visitation may be complicated or precluded by admission day surgery patterns whereby cardiac surgery patients arrive at the hospital on the day of surgery. In these circumstances, opportunities for discussions with anesthesia care providers can be limited and must be anticipated at the preoperative visit with the surgeon, when information can be disseminated and questions can be answered.

    2. Family visitation. Family visitation occurs in the ICU or recovery room for many postoperative cardiac and thoracic surgery patients. The ability for patients to be visited by a family member provides reassurance about their course progression and encouragement toward postoperative care. Family members can be very important in encouraging adequate pulmonary toilet, coughing, deep breathing, and early ambulation to improve postoperative outcomes. Most cardiac surgery programs have designated personnel for the liaison between the professional staff caring for postoperative cardiac surgery patients and family members who need education, encouragement, and the opportunity to assist in postoperative care.

    3. The role of family support. Family support is a vital link toward the early success of a fast-tracking program. Family members need adequate education by surgical and anesthesia staff, who can outline the expected events in the early postoperative course. The role of family support is heightened when patients spend very short periods in postoperative areas such as the recovery room or ICU. Family members who are educated about the expected postoperative course can facilitate postoperative care and smooth the transition from the ICU to a regular nursing floor and finally to the patient's home.

References

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