Preparing For Surgery


front page of the heart surgery booklet


Enhanced Recovery After Surgery

Our goal is for you to be able to return home to your loved ones and get back to doing the things that you love. By working with your health care team and taking an active role in your surgery and recovery, you can heal faster, safer, and easier.

At St. Mary’s General Hospital, we focus on preventing 5 key elements that can slow your recovery after surgery. They are:

  • Prevention of Pain
  • Prevention of Nausea
  • Prevention of Constipation
  • Prevention of Immobility
  • Prevention of Respiratory Compromise

Waiting for Surgery in Hospital

The medical staff will need to do a few things before your surgery. Here is what you can expect:

  • A nurse practitioner or doctor will complete your medical history and do a physical exam.
  • Your anesthesiologist will see you before your surgery.
  • The nursing staff will go through this teaching booklet with you before surgery.

You may have some tests completed while you wait for surgery including:

  • Bloodwork
  • ECG
  • Chest x-ray
  • Nasal and rectal swabs (to check for antibiotic-resistant bacteria)
  • Urine sample

Other healthcare specialists may need to see you before your surgery. Depending on your medical history, you may also have other tests.

Waiting for Surgery at Home

If you will be waiting at home for your heart surgery, your surgeon will arrange for you to have an appointment in the Pre-surgery Clinic. This appointment will take place within 6 weeks of your surgery date. You will receive the appointment information and some questionnaires and forms in the mail. You will need to fill out all of the forms and questionnaires before your clinic appointment.

What to do while waiting for surgery


It is important to stay active in the days and weeks leading up to your heart surgery. Do not try to increase your activity level. Avoid activities that lead to shortness of breath or chest pain. If you were not physically active before, ask your family doctor before starting an exercise program before surgery. You may continue to work leading up to your surgery unless your surgeon tells you otherwise.

Limit your work to activities that do not cause angina, shortness of breath, or fatigue.

Physical activity will help your lungs and circulation. Being in better physical shape will make your recovery easier.

Stop Drinking Alcohol

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Drinking alcohol before surgery can affect your recovery. You should stop drinking alcohol now! Make sure you tell the staff exactly how much alcohol you have had in the days leading up to your surgery. This will help the doctor, or nurse practitioner to adjust your medicines properly.

Alcohol withdrawal can cause:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased sweating
  • Tremors
  • Headaches
  • Feelings of anxiety

Weaning your body from alcohol before surgery can also help with pain control and developing normal sleep patterns after surgery.

Quit Smoking

smokers' hotline logo Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease. If you smoke, it is important that you try to quit before your surgery. Ask your health care professional about medicine to help with your efforts to quit.

There are many benefits to stopping smoking in the days or weeks before your surgery. These include improved healing and better lung function. In short, it will help improve your recovery. Continuing to be a non-smoker after your surgery will improve your overall health. It will help you to keep both the short and long term positive outcomes of not smoking.

What Should I Eat?

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Continue to follow a Healthy Heart diet. You are encouraged to follow this diet after surgery. For information on the Healthy Heart diet, see page 53-54.


Patient Blood Management

To learn more about patient blood management throughout the surgical process, please watch the video below.

For More Information

For more information about how to prepare for heart surgery, please watch the video Preparing Heart Surgery video and read through the Heart Surgery booklet at the top of the page.

Additional Resources

Some patients may experience delirium as a side-effect of surgery. Delirium is a medical condition that changes the way someone thinks and acts.

The link below contains more information about being on the lookout for this condition, what causes it, how to treat it and more.