For a patient who has undergone an open heart operation, the first 24 to 48 hour period following the procedure is the most critical phase of the recovery process. Primarily, the factors that contribute to potential complications or death relate to inadequate performance of the heart and lungs. Functional alterations these organ systems relate to their preoperative state of dysfunction, the use of the artificial heart-lung machine and the trauma of the cardiac repair. It is apparent that continued adequacy of cardiorespiratory performance is critical in the early post-operative period.
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