How do I prepare for surgery?

All arrangements for your surgery will be made by the clinical team at Gulf Coast Cardiothoracic Surgery. When the details are complete, you will be notified about pre-operative testing and/or pre-admission to the hospital. Be advised that this process could take up to 7 business days depending on insurance authorizations, hospital scheduling, and bed availability. Your patience is appreciated while we do all we can to expedite this process.

What should I bring to the hospital?

You are advised to bring a photo ID, insurance cards, and medication bottles or an updated list of medications that includes name, dosage, and frequency. For the first few days you will be required to wear hospital attire. You may bring personal items, as needed; for example, toiletries, robe and slippers, under garments, etc. PLEASE DO NOT BRING VALUABLES WITH YOU TO THE HOSPITAL.

How long will my surgery last?

Typically, cardiac surgery can be from 2-6 hours. Your family members will be kept informed as the procedure progresses. Once the surgery is complete, the doctor will provide them with an update as well as your current status and when your family will be allowed to briefly visit with you.

When will family members and friends be able to visit?

Generally, visiting hours at TGH are 8:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. However, hours and policies vary throughout the hospital, especially on critical care units. Please ask a hospital staff member about the policy on the unit you wish to visit. As a courtesy to all patients, visitors may not stay overnight in semi-private rooms. Persons with a cold or other communicable disease should not visit patients in the hospital.

In cardiac or critical care units, visitors must call from the waiting room to see if visitation is allowed at that particular time. Sometimes it is necessary to limit or delay visitation on critical care units due to patient care activities.

When will I be able to leave the hospital?

Hospital discharge will be arranged when you are no longer on supplemental oxygen, you are able to sit upright and walk for short distances, and you’re able to perform minimal activities of daily living.

What restrictions will I have after surgery?

Prior to surgery it is advised that you make arrangements to have someone help you at home when you are released from the hospital. You will be prohibited from lifting any item that weighs more than five (5) pounds. It is also advised that you not raise your hands above your head. Driving is also restricted for a minimum of 6 weeks. It will be supportive and comforting to have a family member or friend help you with activities of daily living for at least 2 weeks.

How do I care for the surgical site when I get home?

Healing takes several weeks. The bandage or dressing on your chest will likely be removed before you go home. Clean your incision every day with soap and water then gently towel dry the area. Do not cover the wound and do not apply any oils, lotions or powder. The area should be kept clean and dry to prevent infection.

How soon after surgery will I be able to drive?

Operating a motor vehicle will be restricted until at least 6 weeks after surgery or while taking any type of narcotic medication.

I have had surgery for valve replacement and was prescribed Coumadin/Warfarin. How long will I have to take this medication?

If you have had a bio-prosthetic valve replacement, you will need to take Coumadin/Warfarin for approximately 3 months. During this 3-month period you will be monitored for signs of blood clots. After an acceptable amount of time, the doctor will discontinue Coumadin/Warfarin.

Valve replacement surgery using a mechanical valve will require a lifetime therapy of Coumadin/Warfarin with frequent blood testing and close dietary monitoring to maintain adequate levels. There are other blood thinning medications on the market, however, currently Coumadin/Warfarin is the only medication approved by the FDA for valve replacement surgery.

What can I do to speed my recovery?

It is recommended that you increase your daily activity a little more each day. Walking is great exercise; a stationary bike is also very helpful to the recovery process. Begin with 5 (five) minutes and go a little longer each day. You may start doing light work around the house and yard after 2 to 3 weeks at home. Don’t lift anything heavier than five (5) pounds. Until approved by your doctor, avoid mowing the lawn, vacuuming, driving, and doing other activities that could strain your breastbone.

When do I call the doctor’s office?

  •  Chest pain or a return of the heart symptoms you had before your surgery
  •  Signs of infection (redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth) at the incision site
  •  Fever above 100°F (37.8°C)
  • Weight gain of more than 3 pounds in 1 day, more than 5 pounds in 1 week, or whatever weight gain you were told to report by your doctor. Weigh yourself every day, at the same time of day, and in the same kind of clothes.
  •  New or increased swelling in your hands, feet, or ankles
  •  Shortness of breath
  •  Unrelieved pain at the incision site(s)
  •  Changes in the location, type, or severity of pain
  •  Fast or irregular pulse