Preparing for Heart Surgery

It is important that you be as healthy as possible. Before surgery, protect yourself from catching a cold or flu. If you have a fever, chills, coughing or a runny nose, be sure to tell your doctor. Tell your doctors about any changes in your health that you notice before your surgery. If you smoke, you should stop at least two weeks before your surgery. Smoking before surgery can cause blood clotting and breathing problems.

Bring to the hospital a list of any medicines you are taking - over-the-counter ones (especially aspirin or medicines that contain aspirin) as well as any that have been prescribed by any of your doctors. In addition to the name of the medicine, include the amount you take, how often and when.

Be sure to follow any instructions that your cardiologist or surgeon has given you.

You rarely will be admitted to the hospital the day before your surgery (often a patient is asked to come in the morning before the surgery). Heart surgery sometimes requires that your breastbone be divided, your heart stopped and your blood sent through a heart and lung machine. Your chest will be washed, scrubbed with antiseptic and, if necessary, shaved or clipped once you are in surgery to avoid introducing germs into your body.

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight before your surgery. The anesthesia that will be used to put you to sleep during the operation is safest when given on an empty stomach. You will be given something to help you relax (a mild tranquilizer) before you are taken to the operating room.

Throughout the preparations for surgery and the surgery itself, you will be monitored using an electrocardiogram. You may be given blood tests, urine tests and a chest X-ray to give your surgeon the latest status of your heart and health.

After you are completely asleep, a tube will be inserted down your windpipe and connected to a machine called a respirator, which will take over your breathing. A second tube will be inserted through your mouth, down your throat and into your stomach. This stops liquid and air from collecting in your stomach, so you will not feel sick and bloated when you wake up. A thin tube called a catheter will be inserted into your bladder to collect any urine produced during the operation.

An intravenous (IV) line (a needle with a tube connected to it) will be put into a vein. This will be used to give you anesthesia before and during the operation. A special line will be put into an artery to monitor your blood pressure and to draw blood samples.