During open heart surgery, the surgeon cuts open the patient's chest and performs surgery on the muscles, arteries or valves of the heart, according to Healthline. The first step in the surgery is to put the patient under general anesthesia, so she is asleep and feels no pain during surgery.
The next step in open heart surgery occurs when the surgeon makes an incision on the chest, usually about 10 inches long, states Healthilne. The surgeon then cuts through all of the bones in the chest, which exposes the heart. Once the heart is visible, depending on the type of procedure, technicians may connect the patient to a heart bypass machine, which moves blood away from the heart so that the surgeon can operate. The surgeon next uses an existing artery and makes an arterial pathway around the blocked one. Finally, the surgeon closes the breastbone with wire and closes the original incision with stitches. The entire process generally takes around four to six hours.
After surgery, a staff member wheels the patient into the intensive care unit for monitoring, states Healthline. The patient normally has two to three tubes coming out of her chest to aid in drainage, as well as an IV and a catheter. Recovery is gradual, and the patient moves to a normal room after two or three days.