Preparing for Open Heart Surgery

If your doctor has informed you that you are a candidate for heart surgery, you can be assured that it's a procedure performed countless times every day in America. Your doctor has no doubt been in the surgical theater numerous times, and he or she is more than aware that you've never been there, so don't ever be timid about asking any question about anything.

Once you have been scheduled for surgery, it's a good idea to try to get in the best possible condition, which means no smoking, avoiding certain medications and keeping a healthy body weight. It is also advised that you visit your dentist in order to eradicate any bacterial infection that can travel from the mouth to the bloodstream.

The best way to prepare for heart surgery is to arm yourself with as much information as possible, and to take every step you can, to be as healthy as possible, when you are admitted to the hospital. There are a number of steps a heart surgery patient will take before surgery, whether it's open-heart, thoracic (lung) or a coronary artery bypass graft.

Before Surgery

Before surgery, doctors can take tests, offer last-minute instructions and answer any questions you might have. In addition, your chest will be cleaned with an antiseptic and then shaved (where applicable), another way to keep unwanted germs out of the picture.

Before surgery, you'll be given medication that will relax you. In the operating room, you'll be administered drugs that will induce a sleep deep enough to get you through the procedure, which lasts between three and five hours. Because of the effects of the anesthesia on the stomach, you'll be advised to refrain from eating or drinking (even water) in the evening before your surgery.

During Surgery

Several tubes are inserted in your body during surgery to maintain regular breathing and to block air and liquid from entering the stomach. After you awaken and demonstrate you can breathe on your own, the tubes are removed.

You will be transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Time in the ICU varies for each patient, with some recovering more quickly than others. For more information about our CICU, download our CICU brochure.

After Surgery

Once discharged, you are to avoid strenuous activity for four to six weeks. You'll have a follow-up visit with your doctor within six weeks of your surgery.

Additional Resource

  • is a recommended by our physicians as a quality resource for people undergoing open heart surgery. It offers an online social connection between patients and physicians, allowing information to be shared easily.