At the Cape Cod Healthcare, we recognize that surgery can be a stressful time. We’re here to help you prepare for your procedure and answer all your questions. You’re the most important member of our team and our job is to ensure you have a positive experience and the best possible outcome.
Before your cardiac surgery, it's important to follow the guidelines provided by your doctor to achieve the best outcome. The following general guidelines apply to most surgeries.
Contact the cardiac surgery nursing staff at 508-862-7647 at any time, if you have questions.
Preparing for Surgery
If you are taking blood thinners, anticoagulants or aspirin-based medication, you’ll likely be instructed to stop taking them prior to surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions on when to stop.
It is possible you will need to receive blood during or immediately after your surgery. If you have questions about this or if it is against your religious beliefs, please discuss this with your surgeon in advance.
Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery. You may eat as usual until midnight. This helps reduce nausea and vomiting associated with anesthesia. If you are instructed to take medication the day of surgery, use the smallest sip of water possible. If your mouth is dry, rinse with water but do not swallow.
Day of Surgery
- Plan to shower and brush your teeth at home. You may be given specific washing instructions to follow at home using antimicrobial soap.
- Do not use powder, lotions or other cosmetics or makeup. Remove nail polish.
- The surgical area will be shaved at the hospital. Men may shave their face.
- Dress comfortably.
- At the hospital, you’ll be asked to remove any dentures, hairpins, hairpieces, jewelry, contact lenses, artificial body parts and underwear.
- Leave valuables at home.
- Bring a list of medications you’re currently taking and give this to the admitting nurse. Be sure to tell the nurse of any medical allergies prior to surgery.
What to Expect When You Arrive
The day of your procedure you’ll be taken to the pre-admission screening area. Here you’ll change into a hospital gown and your belongings will be secured for you. A nurse will conduct a nursing assessment, take your vital signs and answer any questions. Necessary lab work and other tests will be conducted as indicated by your surgeon. An IV line will be placed to provide you with sedation and medication. You’ll also meet with a cardiac anesthesiologist who will explain the anesthesia process and answer any questions.
The surgery may take several hours, including prep and monitoring. Your family is welcome to wait at the hospital. Once your surgery is completed, the surgeon will speak with a family member. Please provide the staff with a designated phone number for the surgeon to call if family members are not present.
What to Expect After Surgery
After your surgery, you’ll be moved from the operating room to the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where nurses will carefully monitor your condition. Approximately one to two hours after your surgery, family members will be allowed to visit you in the ICU.
When you wake from surgery, you may hear the sounds of equipment, such as alarms or bubbling noises. The cardiac nurses will ask you questions and let you know that the surgery is over.
Expect to feel some pain and discomfort for the first few days after surgery. Your surgeon will order medication to help reduce your pain. We recommend that you take the medication as needed to help you rest and move around more easily.
To help you get the rest you’ll need, your family is advised to keep visits brief. As you get stronger, they can be more involved in assisting with your recovery. This will help everyone feel more comfortable when you get home.
Diet & Nutrition
Soon after surgery, you’ll be offered small sips of water or ice chips to make sure your stomach can tolerate them. As you feel better, you’ll be offered a progressive diet starting with clear liquids and moving to solids. Your doctor will probably prescribe a diet restricted in fat, cholesterol and/or sodium. A dietitian will work with you on dietary planning and provide information.
Common Reactions to Surgery
It is not uncommon to experience a number of emotional and intellectual reactions after major surgery. Feelings of fear, uncertainty, confusion and discouragement are some natural reactions to an event that may seem out of your control. Patients often experience sleep and appetite disruptions or difficulty concentrating. Family members may experience similar reactions.
The more you and your family are aware that these feelings are normal and temporary, the smoother your recovery will go. When your emotions appear to interfere with actions that promote recovery, it’s important to talk to a member of your healthcare team who can help you get additional support. We’re here to guide and assist you in all aspects of our health, including helping you access the resources you need.
Leaving the Hospital
During your recovery, you’ll be visited by a care manager. Along with your doctors and nurses, she or he will determine where you’ll be best served during your ongoing recovery. This may include a short stay at a skilled nursing facility and/or visits by Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod nurses and therapists to your home. These care providers will ensure that your treatment plan continues for the best possible recovery.
Mended Hearts is a national peer-to-peer support group that helps cardiac surgery patients with their recovery. The helpful and compassionate Mended Hearts volunteers at Cape Cod Healthcare are ready to visit and provide hope and support whenever needed. Talk to your cardiac staff if you would like to receive a Mended Hearts visit.
Learn more about Mended Hearts.