It’s only natural to have questions and concerns if you are scheduled for open-heart surgery. Open-heart surgery is used to treat various heart issues, including arrhythmias and aneurysms. The most common type of heart surgery is coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), which improves blood flow in people with severe coronary heart disease.
By planning ahead, you can enjoy greater peace of mind before the procedure and during your recovery period. Learn how you can prepare for your open-heart surgery in this article from St. Barnabas Health System.
What to Expect Leading up to Surgery
In the days before your surgery, it’s essential to make a list of any medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and prescriptions. You should also note any recent illnesses such as a cold, fever, or the flu. This will allow your surgeon to determine the best course of care during and after surgery. You may also be advised to make specific lifestyle changes, such as implementing a healthier diet.
Knowing what to expect before and during surgery can help to relieve any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty you may be experiencing. Depending on the reasons for surgery, preparation may include:
- Two weeks before: Your doctor will ask that you stop taking blood-thinning medications. They will also encourage you to quit smoking.
- One day before: You will have to wash your body with a special soap that kills bacteria on the skin. This decreases your chance of developing infections after surgery.
- The night before: After midnight the night before your surgery, you will have to refrain from eating or drinking (including water). This helps reduce stomach issues related to the anesthesia.
- Day of surgery: Once you arrive at the center, medical professionals will perform tests, including an electrocardiogram (EKG), chest X-ray, and blood work. You may also take medication to help you relax.
- In the operating room: You’ll receive sleep-inducing medications that keep you resting throughout your surgery.
Making Arrangements for Post-Surgery Care
Because the first phase of heart surgery recovery can last anywhere from six to eight weeks, it’s important to make arrangements for post-surgery care ahead of time. If you live alone, make arrangements with a family member, friend, or healthcare aide, who can provide support daily and assist you with routine life activities as you recover. At St. Barnabas, those in recovery can receive assistance through home care services. Our home care aides take a personalized, compassionate approach to care, following a plan that best suits your needs.
After open-heart surgery, your doctor will also give you a series of aftercare instructions that you must adhere to, including directions for proper wound care. Additionally, they will prescribe pain medications to control any side effects and guide you on increasing your physical activity levels. For a month or so after surgery, you will be unable to drive. A loved one or home care aide can help make this challenging time more manageable.
During recovery, it’s vital to ensure you’re getting enough rest and eating a healthy diet. Not only will this work to speed up the healing process, but it will also give you the nutrients you need to heal. It’s common for individuals to lose their appetite after open-heart surgery, but this should subside as recovery progresses. Try eating smaller meals more often so you can still get the nutrients you need without overwhelming your stomach. For more information about preparing for open-heart surgery in the Greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area, contact St. Barnabas today