Preparing for Surgery

Going into the hospital for heart surgery can be a fearful thing. But there are a couple things that you can do a few days before the surgery to help your body prepare.

To help your body physically prepare for the event, you should eat a variety of healthy foods and try to do some form of exercise, such as walking, if the doctor allows. To help the body mentally prepare for the surgery you might want to talk to someone about the event and try to get more rest during the day so that your body will be stronger. It is also very important that if you are still smoking that you try to quit a couple weeks before the surgery. This will help the patient to breathe better and the heart will not have to work as hard.

How it Works

To reach the patient's heart during surgery, an incision, or cut, is made in the center of the chest. This incision runs from below the neck to the middle of the breastbone. The breastbone or sternum is then cut apart.

After the surgery, the breastbone will be held together by wires and the incision on your chest may be sore for a couple of weeks, but the more you begin to move around the less your incision will bother you.

Types of Open Heart Surgery

One of the most important things to know is what is involved in the type of heart surgery you are having. Coronary artery bypass surgery and valve surgery are two of the most common types of heart surgery.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

The heart receives its blood and oxygen through the coronary arteries that surround it. When these arteries become blocked the heart does not get what it needs and can result in angina or a heart attack. Coronary artery bypass surgery would be done to improve the blood flow in these arteries. During this surgery, one or more bypasses may take place. The surgery is normally done with a either a vein from your leg (saphenous vein), an artery from your chest (internal mammary artery), or an artery from your forearm (radial artery). After the bypass is performed, the blood flows through the new vein or artery, around the blocked coronary artery, to take blood and oxygen to the heart muscle.

Valve Surgery

Valve surgery is a little bit different. There are four valves, which act as one-way doors letting blood in and out of the heart's chambers each time it beats. When these valves do not open or close properly the heart has to pump harder to get the blood to the body. This can weaken the heart muscle and cause things such as pain, shortness of breathe, dizziness, or other feelings. When medicines can not correct these problems, heart valve surgery will probably be performed.

A person can also have heart surgery for an atrial septal defect or aneurysm of the heart muscle. An atrial septal defect is when the wall that divides the heart's upper chambers does not close all the way, allowing blood to flow in-between these chambers. During surgery the hole is either patched or sewn together.

An aneurysm is when part of the heart muscle bulges out like a balloon because it has been weakened by a heart attack. The aneurysm will cause the heart not to pump as well and the patient might begin to suffer from things such as shortness of breath, pain, or irregular heartbeats. To correct this problem, the bulge is either cut out or patched during surgery.

Just remember that your goal after surgery is get back to your normal life, but to build your strength slowly!