What can I expect if I am in the ICU after surgery?
Patients undergoing liver kidney, and pancreas surgery may require a short stay in our ICU on the 4th floor at St. Vincent Medical Center. This is a common and expected part of your hospital course.
What to expect immediately after surgery in the ICU
In addition to the IV in your arm, the catheter in your bladder, tube that may be placed in your stomach and small tubes that may be placed into your abdomen during surgery that were previously described, the following are some other catheters that may need to be placed prior to or during your surgery and may be in place in the ICU.
Some patients after surgery may require their breathing tube to remain in place over night while in the ICU. If this occurs, you will receive continuous medications through your IV to alleviate anxiety and control pain until we are ready to remove the breathing tube.
Most patients will have a small catheter, the same size as the IV in your arm, placed into an artery in either of your wrists. This catheter will allow us to monitor your blood pressure every time your heart beats and also to draw blood samples from your arterial circulation as needed.
Some patients will require the placement of a larger intravenous catheter into a vein either on the side of your neck or just below your collarbone. This catheter will allow us to give medications that cannot be given in the IV in your arm and also allows us to monitor your heart during your procedure.
If your Anesthesiologist feels it would be beneficial, you may have a small catheter called an epidural placed into your back that will give you a continuous infusion of pain medication to alleviate the pain that accompanies surgery in your abdomen.
Each of these procedures is done in a sterile fashion, after you receive a local anesthetic and are done inside the operating room prior to starting your surgery. Each catheter will be removed once the ICU team and surgery team agree that it is time for them to be taken out.
As an alternate method of pain control, your anesthesiologist may start you on a patient controlled analgesia pump after surgery. This pump gives pain medication through your IV in your arm and allows you to control when you receive injections of pain medication, without having to request it from the Nurse.
After surgery some patients may have a tube that goes into bladder that allows it to drain during and after surgery. Your surgery team usually removes this tube once you are up and out of bed.
Every hour while you are awake you will be exercising your breathing using an incentive spirometer (pictured below), which is used to prevent pneumonia and is an essential part of your ICU care. Additionally your Nurse will be getting you out of bed on your first day after surgery, which is another essential component of preventing problems with your lungs after surgery.
When can my family visit?
Visiting hours in the ICU are from 8 AM to 7 PM and then from 8 PM to 7 AM. Patients are allowed to have two visitors at the bedside at any one time, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis. We want our patients to have restful nights of sleep, so we encourage families to go home after 830pm each night but they are welcome to call the ICU for updates at any time. We do not allow fresh flowers in the ICU, but we do encourage families to bring in any assistive devices like glasses a patient may need to increase their comfort. We also encourage the use of eyeshades and earplugs for sleep or headphones with music as needed.
Who will manage my care in the ICU?
We have a team of trained Physicians, Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners that are in the ICU 24/7 who will manage the minute by minute care you receive while in the ICU, while remaining in contact with your Surgeon to discuss any changes and to give updates on your progress. Additionally, our hepatobiliary surgical team will see you each day to review findings of surgery, plans for each day and when you can expect to transfer out of the ICU.