You’ll be asked to stop taking certain medications on the day of surgery. You may be given special instructions about medications for diabetes, urination and blood pressure, as well as blood thinners.
The day before your surgery, you’ll be asked to wash your chest and legs using a special soap that helps kill bacteria to prevent infection. You may also be instructed to clip your chest and/or leg hair. You’ll have to stop eating or drinking anything after midnight.
The morning of your surgery, you’ll be asked to arrive at the hospital about 2 hours before your scheduled surgery time, where you’ll have blood pressure and other vital signs checked. Bring your medications with you. If your doctor asks you to take any medications, do so with just a small sip of water.
When you’re ready for surgery, you will be taken to the pre-op holding area, where you’ll meet the anesthesiologist. As you wait, a nurse will be available to answer any questions. You’ll have an IV placed in your arm to deliver antibiotics.
You’ll be put under general anesthesia so you’re completely asleep while prepped for surgery. Your anesthesiologist will put in a central line, which is a large IV for delivering medications. Another line will be used to monitor your heart function. You’ll also be connected to a breathing machine, and a catheter will empty your bladder.
Your procedure is likely to take 3 to 5 hours, depending on what’s being done.
During open-heart surgery, your surgeon will make an incision down the middle of your breastbone, about 7 to 8 inches long. You will be connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, which allows the surgeon to stop your heart from beating and keeps your blood circulating while the heart is stopped. After surgery is complete, your breastbone will be put back together with metal wires. Your skin will be closed with sutures and, in some cases, staples. Drainage tubes will be put in your chest cavity to drain blood and fluid. Also, temporary pacemaker wires will be placed in case your heart rate becomes too slow or an abnormal rhythm develops.