Bleeding Following Open Heart Surgery
It is fairly normal to have some bleeding following open heart surgery. There can be several causes of bleeding after this type of surgery, and the treatment will vary depending on the cause and your individual situation. If bleeding is severe, blood and blood products are often used. Depending on your situation, you may be able to donate your own blood for this purpose three to four weeks before your surgery.
(Technically speaking, an open heart surgery is any procedure where the chest is opened, which certainly includes procedures beyond a heart bypass (a valve replacement, for example). However, because a heart bypass is the most common type of open heart surgery, for the purposes of this article, we will be using the terms "bypass" and "open heart surgery" interchangeably.)
Bleeding during open heart surgery is normal. In fact, some bleeding following this type of surgery is also expected. There can be several causes of bleeding following open heart surgery, and the treatment will vary depending on the cause and your individual situation. It is possible that urgent surgery may be necessary to stop serious bleeding after the open heart surgery or to repair a blood vessel that was damaged. In rare instances, it may be necessary to open your chest in the ICU or recovery room to attempt to control sudden and life-threatening bleeding. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence.
If bleeding is severe, blood and blood products are often used. When this is the case, there is a small risk of a blood transfusion reaction. This may cause an allergic reaction, abnormal blood clotting, or kidney failure. Because the blood and blood products are actively screened for various diseases and problems, including AIDS and hepatitis, blood transfusions are generally safe.
However, there is an extremely rare chance that you may contract an illness secondary to these transfusions. The estimated risk of:
- Hepatitis C from blood transfusions is 1 in 100,000
- Hepatitis B is 1 in 200,000
- HIV is 1 in 600,000.
Depending on your individual situation, it may also be possible for you to donate your own blood. If so, you will usually donate blood about three to four weeks prior to your open heart surgery.