If you have just been referred for open-heart surgery, you probably have many questions about the surgery process. Learning what to expect can give you peace of mind and make your recovery process easier.

At Valley, we have put together detailed information about each phase of the surgical process, beginning with before surgery, recovery from heart surgery and going home after surgery.

If you have any questions throughout the process, please call 201-447-8377.

What to Expect Before Open-Heart Surgery

Pre-Surgery Testing

  • You will be invited to attend our cardiac surgery education session, where a nurse will review the surgical process and show you a video.

  • You will have a medical history and physical performed by one of the nurse practitioners.

  • Routine blood work will be ordered, as well as a chest X-ray.

  • We may order some pulmonary tests to assess your baseline lung function and a carotid ultrasound in some cases, based on your medical history.

Before Heart Surgery Preparation

  • Stop taking your aspirin, Coumadin and any other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (such as Motrin, Advil or Aleve) five to seven days before surgery.

  • It is very important that you tell the surgeon and/or nurse practitioner of any over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies that you take on a regular basis. These medications may affect bleeding and need to be stopped also.

  • You may not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before surgery.

  • In the morning, you can take the medications you were instructed to take with small sips of water.

  • Use the sponges you were given when you shower the night before surgery. Start with your neck, and then wash your chest, arms and legs. Repeat with the second sponge.

  • Please call the surgical office immediately if you develop any signs of a cold before your surgery (for example, a cough, runny nose, or fever).

  • The cardiac surgery office will call you the afternoon before your surgery to inform you of the time you need to come to the hospital.

What to Expect the Day of Open-Heart Surgery

  • Do not bring any valuables to the hospital. Dentures, contacts and hearing aids will be removed before surgery.

  • You will go to the front desk in the main lobby and be directed to the same-day surgical area. The staff will give your family a beeper that will be used to contact you once the surgery is over.

  • A nurse in the same-day surgery unit will prepare you for surgery. This will involve asking you some additional questions and prepping your skin.

  • Your family will wait in the waiting room on the 4th floor. When the surgery is over, the surgeon will speak with your family.

  • In general, the surgery will take three to five hours. Preparation before and after may extend this time. Do not be alarmed.

In the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (CSICU)

  • Immediately after surgery, you will be brought to the cardiac surgery intensive care unit, or CSICU.

  • You will be in the CSICU for at least 24 hours.

  • Visiting hours in the intensive care unit are limited. Visiting hours are from noon to 8 p.m.

  • Only two immediate family members will be allowed in at a time.

  • We request that one family member be designated as the spokesperson. All communication from the healthcare staff will be directed to this individual to avoid any chance of miscommunication or confusion.