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Cardiothoracic Surgery: Frequently Asked Questions

WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute patients and families can find important patient information and answers to frequently asked questions here. If you have further questions, please call 914.493.8793.

I've been told by my doctor that I need heart surgery. How can I be seen by the heart surgeons at WMCHealth Heart and Vascular Institute?

If you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, or other acute symptoms, call 911 immediately. If you are not having acute symptoms, the first step is to call our office at 914.493.8793. You can speak with our staff to schedule a consultation or get more information from one of our nurse practitioners.

What should I do to prepare for my consultation?

Please bring copies of any recent imaging studies (x-rays, angiograms, CAT scans or MRIs) as well as any written reports that you may have. If your referring physician has not done so already, all of your other studies should be sent to our office. As always, any other specific information you may have regarding your condition or prior treatment is also appreciated. You should be able to give us your medical history or bring someone else who can assist you.

What can I expect from my consultation?

During your initial visit, our nurse practitioner and one of our physicians will meet with you and discuss your condition. We will also perform a physical examination and review any and all studies that are available. We will then discuss our findings with you and your family and explore various treatment options.

What happens after my consultation?

After your initial visit, you may need to schedule further tests or follow-up appointments, which our office will arrange for you. If you require surgery, our office will help you schedule your procedure as well as any necessary preoperative testing. If you do not require surgery, your condition may require close follow-up, which we will help you arrange.

What type of presurgical testing will I need?

Some patients may need blood tests and a chest x-ray prior to heart surgery. Often this testing can be completed on the day of your initial visit. If you require additional testing, we will arrange it for you. As a mandatory safety protocol, the hospital will provide each patient with a COVID-19 test prior to a procedure.

What happens on the day of outpatient surgery?

You will be contacted by the cardiac surgery office and the perioperative office the day prior to your scheduled surgery with specific instructions regarding your arrival time, check-in and which of your regular medications should be taken the morning of surgery. If you have not heard from the cardiac surgery office by 2:00 p.m. the day prior to your procedure, please call 914.493.8793. Regardless of the start time of your surgery, you will be asked to not eat or drink anything past midnight the night prior to your scheduled surgery. Once you arrive at Westchester Medical Center, you will go to the Admitting Office to be checked in. From there, you will speak with the nurses and the anesthesiologist and be brought to the operating room.

What can my family do while I am in surgery?

View the latest COVID-19 Visitation Policies here.

While you are in the operating room, your family is free to wait in the ICU Waiting Area, which is located near the ICU. They will be shown how to get to the waiting area once you are brought to the OR. As soon as the operation is finished, one of the surgeons will go to the waiting area to speak with your family. Bear in mind that the operations are lengthy, so your family should not expect to hear from the surgeon for quite some time from when you are brought to the OR. Once you have been brought to the ICU, your family can come for a brief visit. Visiting hours for the ICU are posted outside the unit but generally start at 11:00 a.m.

What can I expect after surgery?

After your surgery is finished, you will be brought to the ICU where you will recover from surgery. Many patients are still asleep when they arrive in the ICU. Generally, most patients spend approximately 24 hours recovering in the ICU after surgery. Once you are stable enough to leave the ICU (usually after 24-48 hours), you will be transferred to the step-down unit, where you will continue your recovery until you are ready for discharge. Keep in mind that every surgery is different, and everyone recovers differently after surgery. Your stay in the ICU or in the hospital may be longer or shorter, depending on your surgical procedure and your recovery.

When will I be discharged?

Once you are recovering well from surgery, you may be discharged directly home or for further rehabilitation. Depending on your age, your operation, your recovery, and your overall level of function, you may benefit from some time at an inpatient rehabilitation center before going home. During this time, you may gain additional strength, conditioning, and confidence before you return to your home.