Cardiothoracic Surgery

How we can help you

We look after people with heart and lung disease who require emergency or planned elective surgery.

Coronary heart disease causes the arteries to progressively become blocked from plaque containing cholesterol and fibrous tissue. This reduces the blood supply to the heart and the amount of oxygen reaching the heart muscle, which can cause a heart attack. The pain associated with this is called angina.

Lung disease is any problem in the lungs that prevents them from working properly. For example, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and bronchiectasis can affect the lung tissue causing pulmonary fibrosis and sarcoidosis or they may affect the blood vessels leading to pulmonary hypertension.

Our team will look after you before, during and after your cardiothoracic surgery.

Our service includes:

  • Cardiothoracic operating theatres
  • Cardiac anaesthesia
  • A four bed cardiothoracic intensive care unit
  • 18 bed cardiothoracic ward.

The heart surgeries we perform include:

Coronary artery bypass surgery - An artery from behind your chest wall or arm, or vein from your leg is used to bypass the blocked artery that supplies blood to your heart.

Heart valve surgery - There are four valves in the heart. Valves can become thickened and narrowed or my fail to close properly which leads to blood flowing backwards. The surgeon may use a ring to support the valve, repair the the valve, or replace the valve completely.

Atrial and Ventricular septal defects - An atrial septal defect is an opening in the wall which divides the upper chambers of the heart. This opening allows extra blood to go to the lungs and therefore may increase how hard your heart has to work. A ventricular septal defect is an opening in the wall between the lower chambers of the heart. Defects may be stitched together or a synthetic patch may be used to close the opening.

Heart aneurysms - A weakness in the heart muscle can cause a bulge (aneurysm), which often occurs as a result of a heart attack. The heart will not pump as effectively. Aneurysms are corrected by reinforcing or patching the weakened area.

We also provide the following specialised services:

Off Pump Coronary Artery Bypass (also called beating heart surgery) – this is when your heart is not stopped during surgery, and a heart-lung bypass machine is not used.

Minimally invasive cardiac surgery – performed through small cuts instead of the traditional open-heart surgery that requires a large cut through the sternum.

Lung surgery - The type of surgery you will require will depend on the type of lung condition you have. Surgery may be performed to diagnose a condition (take a biopsy), to remove a diseased area, or to repair a condition (collapsed lung) and prevent disease.

Our cardiothoracic surgery team includes intensive care specialists, cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiothoracic anaesthetists, specialised nurses and allied health.

We work in partnership with the broader Prince of Wales Hospital cardiac services which include the cardiology ward and coronary care unit. We also are closely integrated with the Intensive Care Unit and Eastern Heart Clinic.

You will need a referral from your local general practitioner (GP) and a surgeon to use our services. If you need surgery, you will be placed on a waiting list after being seen by your cardiothoracic surgeon.

You will receive an email or letter from our Admissions Department with details on what type of surgery you need, the date and when to telephone the hospital. If there are any changes to your surgery date, the hospital will contact you.

The letter may ask you to attend a pre-admission clinic. At pre-admission clinic you may be seen by either a nurse, anaesthetist or the surgical team who may take tests, advise you on how to prepare for your surgery or discuss your care when you leave hospital. 

If your surgery is planned and is in the public hospital system, you will be placed on a waiting list. Your surgeon will decide how serious your condition is and how quickly you will need to have your surgery. Sometimes it is necessary to delay surgery that has been booked to make way for life-threatening cases which are admitted through our emergency department.

If you have questions about waiting times you can call the Surgery Access Line.

If you are having cardiothoracic surgery at Prince of Wales Hospital we like to make sure there is a bed available in our Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit. Sometimes you may come into hospital for your surgery and an emergency occurs and there is no longer an intensive care bed available. Should this happen we will need to rebook your surgery.

If you are well enough and your surgeon recommends it, you will be asked to attend the pre-admission clinic to prepare for your surgery. This is done the week or even the day before your surgery. 

There are a number of tests that need to be completed prior to your surgery, and these need to be organised by your local general practitioner (GP) and brought with you to the pre-admission clinic. These include a chest X-ray, and blood tests. Please wait until we have talked to you before having these done.

Before your cardiothoracic surgery it is important to be as fit as you can be. If you have diabetes we encourage you to see your GP and Endocrinologist to ensure your blood sugar levels are stable at the time of your surgery.

It is important to stop smoking before having surgery. Smoking drastically increases the risk of complications. Your GP can help you with this. Your local chemist can help you with nicotine replacement therapy or you can call the national Quit line on 131 848. You can also get support from the Smoking Clinic in the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Prince of Wales Hospital on phone number 9382 4641.

Before you have surgery it is important to organise for a responsible adult to take you home from hospital and to stay with you for two weeks after you return home. You will need to rest, so plan and arrange leave from work and for help with cooking, shopping, laundry and cleaning.

For more information on what to expect you can read these brochures

Or watch this video - Heart Surgery at POWH

You will need to bring to hospital:

  • Your referral from your GP and your referral from your Surgeon
  • Medicare card
  • Health care card and/or concession card (if you have one)
  • Previous X-rays, scans, ultrasounds or any other test results
  • Your regular medicines and a list of all that you are currently taking (or the boxes), including those you take without a prescription such as herbal supplements or vitamins
  • Glasses, hearing aid, walking frame.
  • For an overnight stay please bring: your sleepwear, dressing gown, slippers, personal hygiene items (e.g. shampoo, shaver, toothbrush and paste) and something to read or an iPad or tablet with headphones.

Please do not bring:

Your handbag, wallet, purse, or large amounts of cash. Valuables including jewellery and watches.

Please let us know if you need an interpreter. You can contact us telephoning the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450. Tell the operator what language you speak and then ask the interpreter to set up a telephone conversation between you, an interpreter, and the healthcare professional you want to speak with.