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What To Expect Before Heart Surgery

There are many types of heart surgery. One person's experience before surgery can be very different from another's.

Some people carefully plan their surgeries with their doctors. They know exactly when and how their surgeries will happen. Other people need emergency heart surgery. For example, they might be diagnosed with blocked coronary arteries and admitted to the hospital right away for surgery.

If you're having a planned surgery, your doctors and others on your health care team will meet with you to explain what will happen. They'll tell you how to prepare for the surgery. You might be admitted to the hospital the afternoon or morning before your surgery.

You may have some tests before the surgery, such as an EKG (electrocardiogram), chest x ray, or blood tests. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed into a blood vessel in your arm or chest to give you fluids and medicines.

A member of your health care team may shave the area where your surgeon will make the incision (cut). Also, your skin might be washed with special soap to reduce the risk of infection.

Just before the surgery, you'll be moved to the operating room. You'll be given medicine so that you fall asleep and don't feel pain during the surgery.

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Heart Surgery Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Heart Surgery, visit

November 08, 2013 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.