Sorry to be so incredibly vague in the title, but I couldn’t adaquately sum up the question I’m about to ask. My girlfriend is down in her hometown taking care of her ailing father who just got out of heart surgery yesterday. When we spoke last evening, she told me that, hours after coming out, his skin looked, well, shiny. She said it had the sheen of a newborn baby, almost. This is a marked difference from his skin pre-surgery, which was wrinkled, calloused, and quite old-man-tastic.
My question: is this a common after-effect of heart surgery? Does the patient usually emerge with a more healthy look—specifically his skin? This whole phenemenon seems to run against what I’d’ve assumed a patient would look like after he’d had his heart stopped for hours. But you know what they say about assumptions.
Well, that’s not how my dad looked. They warned us, “He’s going to look bad.” That does not prepare you for seeing a loved one look basically deceased. He was whiter than I’ve ever seen a living person (or a dead one for that matter, having never seen a dead person without makeup.) I couldn’t swear to the state of his wrinkles; the rest of him looked so bad we might not have noticed.
She also remarked that his skin was basically colorless, but he’s still in the covered-in-bandages stage. The state of his skin caught her off-guard. This isn’t to say he’s doing cartwheels, but, well, I wanted to see if this was an anamoly or a more common experience.
You get a lot of I.V. fluid during surgery, more that your kidneys can eliminate quickly. His skin is probably just stretched from the bloating and will return to normal soon.
During by-pass surgery the Aorta is cross clamped for a time. During cross clamping the kidney’s are deprived of oxygen, causing enough insult to lead to defuse swelling. The amount of edema varies, depending on the pre-surgery health of the kidneys and the patient in general, as well as the cross clamp time.
His color change could be at least partly caused by the edema, as well as the redistribution of blood. He lost blood during surgery, and probably received packed red blood cells as a replacement.
If all goes well, he should start looking like himself in aday or two.
Oh, one other cause for both, could be the disinfectant used to clean the skin prior to surgery.
My dad (71) had a quintuple bypass last December as a result of feeling winded after doing some yardwork. He felt dizzy, asked my mom to take him to the doc and they IMMEDIATELY scheduled his bypass. Had to ambulance ride him to Sacramento from Chico (2 hours) on a Thursday evening, by Saturday morning they were prepping him for surgery. Thank God he never actually had to go thru a heart-attack, that surely would have killed him.
Anyhoo, he had the best attitude of anybody…we were all crying before they wheeled him away, he was laughing at us for being silly. He did GREAT! He said it was a bit painful when they removed the breathing tube, but honestly, I could hardly tell that he’d been thru a possible life-ending surgery. He looked great, the SCAR was a bit shiny and still is, but has now shrunken to just a puckered line.
I’ve decided that recovery is 30% medical and 70% psychological.
Best wishes for your dad!