Heart Surgery Preparing for Surgery
There are many types of heart surgery. The type depends on your heart condition and how serious it is. This means that one person’s experience preparing for surgery can be very different from another person’s. For example, some people are able to carefully plan their heart surgeries with their healthcare providers, while others require emergency surgery.
If you're having a planned surgery, your healthcare team will meet with you to explain how to prepare, what to expect during the surgery, and how to recover afterward.
Diagnostic tests before surgery
Before your surgery, you will have a physical exam and your provider will do blood tests and heart tests to learn more about your condition and your general health. These tests help your provider decide whether you need heart surgery, what type of surgery you need, and when to do it. Some heart tests your provider may do include:
- Cardiac catheterization
- Coronary angiography
- Echocardiography (“echo”)
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
- Heart imaging tests such as cardiac (CT) scan, chest , coronary calcium scan, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), carotid ultrasound, or nuclear heart scan
- Holter and event monitors
- Stress tests
Immediately before your surgery, your provider will place an intravenous (IV) line into a blood vessel in your arm or chest to give you fluids and medicines. A member of your healthcare team may shave the area where your surgeon will make the incision (cut). Also, your skin might be washed with antibiotic soap to reduce the risk of infection. Soon after, you'll be moved to the operating room and given anesthesia, a medicine that makes you lose consciousness and not feel pain during the surgery.
Questions to ask your provider
Talk with your provider about the benefits and risks of your upcoming procedure and about what will happen if you do not have the procedure. You can also ask about how to prepare and what to expect.
You may want to add your own questions about what you should do to prepare for heart surgery to the common questions below.
- How long before surgery do I need to stop eating or drinking?
- Do I need to change any of my current medicines before surgery?
- How long will the surgery take?
- How much pain should I expect after surgery and how will it be managed?
- How long will I be in the hospital after surgery?
- Will I be referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program? If so, how long will I be there?
- How long until I can return to work and resume normal daily activities?