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A Patient's Guide to Heart Surgery

What To Do Before Your Surgery

Nurses taking a patient to surgery.

The Night Before Surgery

Your surgical nurse will provide you with these instructions the night before surgery:

  • The night before your surgery, you can eat a normal meal, but do not eat, drink or chew anything after 12 o'clock midnight. This includes gum, mints, water, etc.
  • When brushing your teeth, avoid swallowing any water.
  • Bathe or take a shower, wash from your neck down with the anti-bacterial soap provided.

On the Morning of Surgery

  • Proceed with your routine morning care. If you bathe or take a shower, wash from your neck down with the anti-bacterial soap provided.
  • Women should not wear any makeup and must remove any nail polish.
  • You should bring all your prescription medications with you.
  • You should leave jewelry, watches, money and other valuables at home or with the person who accompanies you.
  • We recommend that you dress in comfortable clothing that's easy to fold. You will be given a garment bag so that your clothing can be given to the family member or friend who accompanies you. When you are transferred to a nursing floor, you may use your personal robe and toiletries.
Arriving at the Hospital

When you arrive at the hospital, you will be directed to the Pre-Op area. You will be given a hospital gown to wear. All clothing and other valuables should be given to your family members or the person who accompanies you. If you are unaccompanied, please tell your nurse, who can have your items locked up prior to surgery.

If You are an In-Hospital Patient

If you are already hospitalized, you will be given your approximate time of surgery the evening prior to your operation. Family members and friends may arrive before the operation and stay with you up until the time you are taken to surgery. Give all belongings to your family to take home with them, because you will not return to the same room after your surgery.

If you are unaccompanied, please tell your nurse, who can have your items locked up in Patient and Guest Services prior to your surgery. Your unit nurse and patient assistant will verify your identity before surgery by checking the identification bracelet on your wrist. You will then be transported to the operating room suite.

On the Day of Your Surgery

On the day of your surgery, a patient educator or a nurse may talk with you and your loved ones. He or she can tell you what to expect. You'll most likely feel a little nervous before surgery. The hospital staff will do all they can to answer your questions and help you relax.

  • Tell your doctor what medications you're taking, especially aspirin or an anticoagulant ("blood thinner"). Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking them. Also bring a complete list of your current medications (including over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and herbal supplements), allergies, your medical records and health insurance information.
  • If you develop a cold, fever or sore throat within a few days of your surgery, or have other questions or concerns, call your surgeon's office.
  • If you smoke, stop immediately to improve your blood flow and breathing.
  • Don't eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery.
  • To help prevent infection, any hair in an incision area may be shaved. You may also be asked to wash with an antibacterial soap the morning of surgery.
  • If you are having valve surgery and need dental work, you may be told to have it done before surgery. This is because dental work often allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which may cause infection around a new valve.

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