A breathing tube will be placed in the throat. Next, an incision will be made on the skin of the chest. A special device will help open the ribs to expose the heart. You will be connected to a heart-lung machine. This machine will take over for the heart and pump blood to your body during surgery. The heart can then be stopped so the surgery can begin.
The tumor and some surrounding tissue will be removed. The doctor will remove as little tissue as possible without leaving tumor tissue behind. Repairs or reconstruction will be done to make sure the heart can still work properly. Once the repairs are complete, the heart lung machine will be removed and your heart will start beating again. Your heart will be observed to make sure it is working properly.
Wires will be used to help close the ribs. The wire will support the breastbone as it heals. The skin will be closed with stitches or staples. A bandage will be applied over the incision.
How Long Will it Take?
About 3-5 hours
How Much Will it Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
Average Hospital Stay
You will be in the hospital for several days. The exact length of stay will depend on your surgery and recovery rate.
At the Hospital
The first part of recovery will occur in an intensive care or coronary care unit. There will be several tubes and wires attached to you so your vital signs can be monitored.
You will be given IV fluids initially. You will gradually start with liquids, then progress to your regular diet.
The hospital staff may ask you to:
Move around in bed. It will help circulate the blood.
Increase your activity level each day.
Take deep breaths and cough. This will help keep your lungs clear.
Wear elastic stockings to promote blood circulation.
To help your recovery once you get home:
Follow instructions on caring for the wound to prevent infection.
Track your temperature and weight as directed.
Avoid lifting, pushing, or pulling anything weighing more than 10 pounds.
Have someone help you around the house.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
Pain that cannot be controlled with the medications you were given
Heart surgery. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-surgery. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Paraskevaidis IA, Michalakeas CA, Papadopoulos CH, Anastasiou-Nana M. Cardiac tumors. ISRN Oncol. 2011;2011:208929.
Reardon MJ, Walkes JC, Benjamin R. Therapy insight: malignant primary cardiac tumors. Nat Clin Pract Cardiovasc Med. 2006;3(10):548-553.
Warning signs of heart attack, stroke & cardiac arrest. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/911-Warnings-Signs-of-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_305346_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed March 26, 2018.
What happens after heart surgery? American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@hcm/documents/downloadable/ucm_300445.pdf. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 2/11/2013
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