Preparing for Surgery

You’ll have a preoperative exam to make sure you’re well enough for treatment. If we find a serious issue, we may need to delay surgery until your health improves. Better health before surgery leads to a better outcome after treatment. 


Follow these rules to prevent problems during surgery: 

  • Stop smoking at least two weeks before your procedure. Chemicals in cigarette smoke slow your body’s healing process. 
  • Stop taking ibuprofen and other over-the-counter blood thinners two weeks before surgery. If you take prescription blood thinners, your surgeon will tell you when you should stop taking them.
  • Stop drinking alcohol at least one week before surgery. Alcohol makes it harder for your body to stop bleeding after a cut or surgical incision. 
  • Visit your dentist for a cleaning if you haven’t had one in the past six months. Ask your dentist to check for cavities or gingivitis (gum disease). Your surgeon may ask you to get treatment for inflammation or infections in your mouth before surgery. 
  • Do not eat or drink the night before surgery. You can take medications with small sips of water if necessary. If you have food in your stomach before surgery, you’ll feel more nauseous when waking up from anesthesia. 

Read all the handouts your surgeon provides so you feel confident and informed. Call your surgeon’s office with any questions. Your care team is happy to help you prepare for surgery.

Day of Surgery

After you check in at the hospital, we’ll take you to your room. Keep personal items like eyeglasses, contact lenses, or hearing aids in your room or ask family members to hold onto them until after surgery. Family can stay with you until you go to the operating room. 

Before surgery, you’ll receive an IV (tube placed in a vein) and medication to help you relax. A nurse will give you ice chips if the medication makes your mouth dry. 

In the Operating Room

You’ll receive general anesthesia to make you sleep and prevent pain. Your surgeon may also give you an anesthetic in the form of a nerve block, which reduces pain after you wake up. 

Surgery will likely take three to four hours. 

Waking Up After Surgery

You’ll go to the intensive care unit (ICU) after treatment so nurses can monitor your condition. It may take several hours to wake up, depending on your age, health and other factors. 

When you regain consciousness, you’ll have:

  • Tube going from your windpipe to a ventilator that helps you take deep breaths 
  • Tube going through your nose to your stomach to reduce nausea and bloating
  • Bladder catheter so nurses can monitor your urine output and make sure your kidneys are removing extra fluid from your body
  • Tubes inserted to drain fluid from your chest
  • Line in a blood vessel in your arm to check blood pressure continuously 

Recovering From Open-Heart Surgery

The day after surgery, you can start drinking water and eating if you can keep down solid foods. You will be up and walking the day after surgery. Walking is an important part of recovery. 

You’ll likely move from the ICU to a step-down room two days after surgery. A nurse will give you a device to wear to keep track of your heart rate.

Many patients report insomnia after surgery because of anxiety, the change in their environment and side effects of anesthesia. Talk to your primary care doctor if your sleeping pattern doesn’t return to normal within a couple of weeks of returning home.

It is very common to have problems with memory, concentration or depression following surgery. These will subside over time. 

Regaining Strength

After major surgery, you might feel tired just walking from your bed to the bathroom. Try to do a little more each day. Ask a loved one to take you to appointments until your doctor says it’s OK to drive. You can also ask your care team about local transportation services.

The best things you can do to promote a healthy recovery are:

  • Get dressed every day
  • Eat small meals instead of three large meals 
  • Exercise by walking multiple times every day (within your doctor's recommended limits)
  • Talk to family and friends

Return to Activities

Cardiac rehabilitation will guide you through supervised exercise to help you safely regain strength and energy. You’ll also explore lifestyle changes that support heart health. 

You may be able to go jogging, golfing, or enjoy other athletic activities in two months. A full recovery will take longer if you had a chronic illness before surgery. Follow your doctor’s rules for recovering, and you’ll ensure the best possible outcome over the long term. 

Talk to Your Doctor

If you have a question about your heart procedure, call your surgeon’s office. 

Need a cardiologist? Ask your primary care provider for a referral or call AnMed WellnessConnect at 864-512-3748 for help finding a doctor.