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Preparing for Surgery and What to Expect

Leading up to your surgery your doctor or cardiologist may talk with you and your family about what to expect while you are in the hospital. Nervousness about surgery is common and the hospital staff is equipped to do everything they can to help make you comfortable and answer your concerns.

Dental Work: If you need to have dental work performed, you should have it done prior to your surgery. Oftentimes, dental procedures allow bacteria to enter the blood stream, which could lead to infection.

Medications: Be sure to let your doctor know what medications you are taking, especially aspirin. Some medications can cause excessive bleeding during surgery. Your anesthesiologist may talk with you about your medical history.

Smoking: If you smoke, stop immediately to improve breathing and blood flow.

Eating and Drinking: Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor, avoid eating and drinking anything after midnight the night before your surgery.

Hygiene: To help prevent infection, the hair around your incision areas may be shaved. You may be asked to wash with antibacterial soap.

How Long?: The entire surgery, including preparation can take anywhere between 4 and 8 hours

Knowing the Risks

After discussing the risks and benefits of surgery, your doctor will likely give you a consent form to sign. Risks involved with major surgery include:

  • Breathing problems or other complications with your lungs
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Nerve injuries
  • Heart attack, stroke, and possibly death

Right After Surgery

After surgery, you will likely be moved to a special recovery area where you will be closely monitored. From there, you may go to a special care unit known as ICU (intensive care unit). This part of the hospital is equipped to monitor patients, particularly those coming out of surgery.

Waking Up: You will likely feel disoriented when you first wake up, possibly even thirsty or cold. These feelings are common and should not last long. If you feel pain, your nurses can give you medication. Don’t be surprised to see a variety of surgical tubes and machines attached to your body. These devices were placed there to monitor your body during and after surgery and vital connections will be giving you fluid and medications. The tubes and lines will be removed when you no longer need them.

Respiratory Care: A nurse or therapist may help you with deep breathing and coughing exercises. These will help prevent lung or respiratory problems from developing.

Time to Get Active: As soon as possible, you’ll need to start moving around to help regain your muscle strength and blood flow. Start with sitting up, getting out of bed, and then on to walking. Your hospital or doctor may have a rehabilitation program designed for your particular condition.

Heading Home – Your First Few Weeks

Some people recover faster from surgery than others. While you are healing, follow your doctor’s advice carefully. You will likely be excited about being home from the hospital, but you’ll probably also be nervous about being without all the hospital care you have received. Your doctor feels you are ready, but expect to be tired.

You’ll likely feel stronger each day. Be patient. Your doctor or nurses at the hospital may have given you specific instructions about how to care for yourself at home. Remember you can always call your doctor if you have questions or concerns.