Open heart surgery - still open 5 days later

Okay, so a friend of a friend, age 45, needed an emergency triple bypass. The surgery started around midnight two nights ago, so she’s currently been in the OR for over a day and a half. (Apparently the surgeon is having difficulty getting her heart started again.)

She’s been conscious, briefly, a few times, and her family were allowed to visit her in the OR (!)… but apparently the surgeon is still hopeful that she’ll be alright.

Anyone know of situations like this where the outcome was good?

I’ve seen TV shows where they say very long stays under general anesthesia are not good. But I don’t have any more info than that.

Wow! I have never heard of such a lengthy op (of this type) myself, but am by no means an expert. I have worked in/around hospitals for several decades so I have heard lots of stories, of course. This is the most extreme I have heard of, though. More ‘miraculous’ things have happened - ya never know, ya know?! I would guess that the outcome is very bleak. I love to be wrong on these kind of things, too.

A+ for effort on surgeon’s part. I bet the staff at that hospital have quite the grapevine going about “How’s she doing?”… Hope it goes well for your friend’s friend. Better to have chances to say goodbye than sudden death (bluntly stated, not meant to derail the intent of question)

No news yet… approaching 48 hours now.

I feel pretty certain at this point they are just keeping her on the machines so that her family have a chance to truck in to say goodbye. It’s very sad. She has young children.

About a million years ago (okay, more like 10) I worked primarily in the cardiac ICU- taking over the CABG and other open heart surgery patients when they came out of the OR (but I am not an RN or doctor so please do not rely on anything I might say). I have seen some lengthy CABG surgeries, but this one kind of takes the cake, it is the most extreme that I have heard of as well.

I do not want to say anything without knowing the medical details (and if I knew them I wouldn’t want to say anything without seeing her in person) but honestly, it does not sound good.

I hope she has a miraculous recovery and pulls through this. That she has been conscious might be a good omen…I really can’t say. I have never seen anything like that, but working in the ER and ICU taught me that medical miracles can and do happen and I was constantly being surprised. I hope your friend is one of the surprises.

Good Lord. I have nothing to add but best wishes for peace and strength for her and her family.

Are you sure the family isn’t confusing OR with critical care?

The patient may still have an open chest, with her heart visible through a sterile, plastic film.

Many hospitals have a critical care suite adjoining the surgical suite, for those cases that may need to return to surgery quickly.

I work in a large teaching hospital, but I’ve never worked in the CTICU. I’ve never heard of this situation before, but your friend does have age on her side. Younger people generally recover better than older people, and my prayers go out to her and her family. They may be keeping her on machines to talk with the family about donating her other organs, but it seems strange to keep her in the OR.

Having her come out of it for any length of time seems to me a miracle in itself. Best wishes for her.


The Critical Care suite may be just where she is - that does sound more reasonable than letting such a case take up a OR for 48 hours.

She was alert enough at one point to shake her head yes/no to answer questions, although obviously she can’t talk, due to the heart-lung machine.

Maybe she’s in the ICU, but still just on a ventilator. That would mean that her heart is beating for itself, although there are mechanical devices that could assist with that. I don’t think she’d still be on bypass.

Indeed, she could still be on a form of bypass. There are several different machines that can do, or assist the work of the heart and/or lungs, giving time to heal. Cardiopulmonary bypass, intra-aortic balloon pump, ECMO are all mechanical heart/lung assist devices, that can be used post op.

I was thinking of IABP when I mentioned mechanical assistance, as well as epicardial pacing, and LVAD. I know they don’t do ECMO on adults here In Hartford, so whatever assistance she is getting, I can assume that her lungs are oxygenating her blood. Devices such as LVAD and IABP are timed off of the patient’s intrinsic heart beat. As we know, ICU care is very complicated, and I think that the OP isn’t being given all of the information or in a way that it understandable.

They are most likely giving up, but padding the bill to use whatever is left of her insurance lifetime maximum. I bet once they get to that amount the operation will end quickly.

The other possibility is they did something wrong during, and now keep her going so it may heal over before death to leave little trace. For instance maybe she had too much of some drug. by keeping her alive it has time to dissipate and the doc’s problem goes away. I’ll bet it is one of the above, maybe more than one.

Nice theory, but more likely the family isn’t ready to face the reality that there was nothing that could be done. In this patient’s case, she is young, with small children, so I’m sure they’re sensitive to the family’s situation. It takes time for families to absorb this sort of stuff and for family members to gather to visit the patient and make the decision on what to do next, (pull the plug).
I’ve seen this play out hundreds of times when I worked in the ICU. There is no general conspiracy by hospitals to “pad the patient’s bill.” Generally, they’d rather let the patient die and clear the bed for another patient. Hospitals are paid a fee for particular service they provide. People lying around getting nosocomial infections and other complications generally cut into the hospital’s bottom line.


Do you have any basis for which to say that or are you just taking reckless potshots? It seems particularly cruel to interject your baseless cynicism into someone’s real-life tragedy.

What an ass.

Silverstreak Wonder, let’s take this elsewhere.

Sara, IANAD but I’d have to say it doesn’t sound good. Still, I hope you all have good news at the end of the day.

Well aren’t you just a little ray of sunshine.

[Moderator Note]

Silverstreak Wonder, General Questions is for factual answers. While some other posters have posted opinions, your post is sufficiently extreme that I seriously suspect you are trolling. (This assessment is also based on many of your other posts on the board.) While I am not issuing an official warning in this case, I am putting you on notice to keep your responses in GQ strictly factual. Future posts of this kind may result in a warning.

General Questions Moderator