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Cardiac Surgery Frequently Asked Questions

If you do not find the answers to your questions here, please do not hesitate to call our office at 425-454-8161. We are available 24 hours a day, seven day a week to answer your questions and concerns.

What are some of the common tests done prior to surgery?

All cardiac surgery patients undergo heart catheterization performed by their cardiologist.

Routine preoperative tests include:

  • Blood tests to evaluate chemistries, blood count and blood type.
  • Chest X-ray to evaluate lungs and heart size.
  • Carotid Doppler to evaluate blood vessels in the neck leading to the brain. If there is severe narrowing, you will be referred to a vascular surgeon for consultation.

What is the likelihood that a transfusion will be necessary?

Every effort is made to avoid transfusions. Most patients do not need a transfusion. Sometimes blood is necessary, especially when patients come in urgently for surgery having been on certain medications or if they have a low blood count prior to surgery. The Puget Sound Blood Bank screens all blood for AIDS antibodies and various infections, such as hepatitis.

What education will I receive?

Teaching you and your family about your needs is an important part of your care. Elective surgery patients come to the hospital preoperatively for teaching. You will see and be given a DVD or video that gives an overview of cardiac surgery and home care. Also, you will receive written information that will answer many of your questions. We also have pamphlets on cardiac diet for both diabetic and non-diabetic patients. Postoperatively, the nursing staff and our team will instruct you about your care after you return home. We are available 24 hours, seven day a week to answer your questions and concerns.

Will I experience much pain?

Most patients experience minimal pain. We use a variety of medications that will keep you comfortable. Your nurse will regularly evaluate your discomfort and offer pain medications. Keeping you comfortable is very important so you can participate in walking, breathing and self-care activities necessary for recovery.

Will there be any limitations after my surgery?

The most important restriction is limiting upper body use to allow your sternal bone to heal. This means no pushing, pulling or lifting more than five pounds for two months after surgery. Your nurse will teach you techniques to accomplish this. Exercise that strengthens stomach muscles will help you become independent sooner.

What is the average length of hospital stay?

Many patients are able to leave the hospital in three to four days after surgery. Our team will discuss your discharge plans with you postoperatively.

What type of care will I need after I return home?

If you are able to go directly home, you will need someone there 24 hours per day for the first week. The key responsibilities are:

  • Grocery shopping and meal preparation.
  • Obtaining medications and dispensing as ordered.
  • Monitoring patient’s weight, blood pressure, temperature and keeping a record for the surgeon.
  • Assisting with the walking program as necessary.
  • Helping with daily activities such as bathing, assisting in and out of bed as needed.
  • Providing transportation to doctor appointments.

Do I need nursing services at home?

Most patients and their families are surprised at how fast recovery occurs. If additional attention is needed, home health services may be recommended. A nurse may be ordered for monitoring the heart and lungs, medication management, blood draws and teaching if indicated. Physical and Occupational therapy can also be helpful if getting around is difficult. Our designated social worker will arrange these services.

If I need to go to a skilled nursing facility for further rehabilitation, how do I know where to go? Who will arrange for the transfer to the skilled nursing facility

Our team makes every effort to identify rehabilitation needs early. We will meet with you and provide information to help you identify facilities. Our social worker will also meet with you and review your insurance coverage. They will make all the arrangements for transfer.

Can I climb stairs after surgery?

Yes, but it can be fatiguing. Organizing your home routine to minimize stair use will provide you with more energy for other recovery activities.

When can I drive?

Usually three to five weeks after surgery. Your doctor will tell you when this is appropriate.

When can I return to work?

Most individuals who perform desk or sitting activities are able to resume limited or part-time work at three to four weeks after surgery. Those with physically active jobs may be restricted for two months. Your return to work should be discussed with your surgeon usually two to three weeks after surgery.