Preparing for Heart Bypass Surgery

Preparing for Heart Bypass Surgery

If you have been recommended for heart bypass surgery to treat your coronary artery disease, preparing ahead of time can help the recovery process go a lot smoother. Here are a few tips to help you and your caregiver prepare.

What is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)?

The three main coronary arteries and their branches course along the surface of the heart providing blood to the heart muscle. When these arteries become blocked by plaque, the blood supply is compromised causing chest pain (angina), and when severe enough will cause a heart attack. Several risk factors put you at risk for CAD. These include family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, inactivity, and obesity.

How is it treated?

Depending on the severity, number, and location of the blockages your cardiologist will determine (often in conjunction with the cardiac surgeon) whether medical management, balloon angioplasty and stenting, or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is necessary.

What is Heart Bypass Surgery?

The operation involves a median sternotomy, exposing the heart, placing the patient on the heart-lung machine (or occasionally left beating known as off-pump), and using the internal mammary artery, the greater saphenous vein, and/or the radial artery to bypass the blockages in the coronary arteries. This will provide blood flow to the heart muscle beyond the blockages to prevent a heart attack, eliminate angina, improve heart function, and prolong the patient’s life.

Preparing for Your Heart Bypass Surgery

Preparing ahead of time for your heart bypass surgery can make the recovery process less stressful for you and your caregiver. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

  1. Review all your questions with the doctor – Bring a list of questions with you to the doctor and take notes so you can reference back to details later. You may even want to bring a caregiver with you to help take notes and ask questions. Be sure to ask about your current medications and supplements (when to start/stop), personal risk factors, and ways you can reduce complications.
  2. Quit Smoking – Smoking is a significant risk factor in complications after surgery. Smokers also take longer to heal after surgery and smoking increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. Talk with your doctor about resources available to help you quit.
  3. Get a dental exam- Ask your doctor if you need dental clearance prior to surgery. Heart health and oral health are strongly linked – sometimes oral bacteria can spread to the heart causing complications.
  4. Establish a heart healthy lifestyle – If you haven’t already, now is a good time to implement some lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet and exercise. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
  5. Prepare your home and caregivers – You will need a caregiver to assist you at home following surgery. If you do not have friends or family that are able to help, consider arranging home health services. It can be helpful to prep freezer meals ahead of time, schedule house cleaning services and schedule bill pay so you can focus on recovery.
  6. Pack your hospital bag – Packing your bag ahead of time can help ensure you bring everything you need to the hospital. A few things to remember are: medications, supplements, photo ID, and insurance card. Bringing a few comfort items from home can make the hospital stay more enjoyable – robe, pillow, blanket, slippers, special toiletries, puzzles and books. Don’t forget your phone charger and leave your valuables, such as money and jewelry, at home.

Coronary artery disease is a serious condition that often requires surgical intervention. When bypass surgery has been recommended, you can trust the experts at Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgical Associates. Our surgeons are leaders in the industry for bypass surgery and can help get you on a path to wellness. Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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