Usually, heart surgery can be scheduled days or weeks in advance. It will depend upon how serious your heart condition is, your schedule and the surgeon‘s schedule. If you have a week or two before surgery, use this time wisely. Check with your surgeon about:
- exercise – Should you start, stop or continue exercises?
- diet – Should you change your diet in any way?
- weight – Would it help your recovery to lose or gain a few pounds?
- smoking – If you smoke, can your doctor recommend a stop smoking program?
- medicines – What medicines should you start, stop or continue taking? Remember to ask about all medicines that you take regularly or occasionally, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Also, be sure to:
- rest, relax – Take good care of your physical and mental health. Don’t overdo things. And make sure you plan some enjoyable activities to relax your mind and give your spirits a lift.
- report health changes – Tell your doctor if you have any signs of infection, like chills, fever, coughing, runny nose, within a week of your scheduled surgery. If an infection continues, surgery may have to be rescheduled.
A special note about smoking
Not only is smoking bad for your health, but it could affect your recovery. Since most hospitals are “smoke free”, you will have to quit smoking when you go into the hospital. This means you will be going through nicotine withdrawal when your body is trying to recover from surgery. So, do yourself a big favor. Quit smoking now, and your mind and body will be able to focus on healing, not withdrawal.
Making arrangements for surgery
Whether you’re having major surgery or minor surgery, you should always have a family member or friend with you. Even when you are going for the pre-admission tests (explained later), it’s a good idea to have someone with you. He or she can listen and take notes for you – or simply hold your hand if that’s what you need! So give your family or friend plenty of notice about your upcoming tests and surgery. Also, now is a good time to make a list of any medicines you are taking and any allergies to medicines, food, etc. that you may have. Take this list with you when you go to the hospital so you don’t forget anything.
A few days before surgery you will need to have certain tests. Your surgeon’s office staff will tell you where to go and which tests you will need. If you have had any of these tests recently, ask your surgeon if a copy of your test results will do in place of redoing the tests. You may need:
- a chest x-ray to see how well your lungs work
- an electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or an echocardiogram (ECHO) that shows how your heart is working
- blood tests that show chemistry and blood counts
- a urine analysis
There will be paperwork to complete. You will be asked:
- to fill out insurance forms, or provide authorization forms from your insurance company; make sure you bring your insurance card(s)
- if you brought written orders from your doctor or lab test results
- the name, address and telephone number of someone to contact in case of emergency
You will be told about your rights for advanced directives (your options for life support if that’s needed) and asked for a copy of your living will and health care power-of-attorney. You must sign a surgical consent form. This is a legal paper that says your surgeon has told you about your surgery and any risks you are taking. By signing this form you are saying that you agree to have the surgery and know the risks involved. Ask your doctor about any concerns you have before you sign this form.
Surgical methods today reduce much of the blood loss during surgery. However, you may need a blood transfusion. If so, your blood will be matched carefully with blood that has been carefully tested. The blood you receive can come from:
- a blood bank – this blood supply is from the American Red Cross and is safer today than it has ever been
- a designated donor – this can be a family member who has the same type of blood that you do
- you (autologous blood donation) – you will donate blood at a local blood bank or hospital
Ask your surgeon which would be best for you. If you donate blood, you must do it in plenty of time for surgery. Also, be sure to eat and drink as directed if you decide to donate blood.Tags: Blood transfusion, Transfusion medicine, Allergies, Surgery, heart surgery