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Preparing for surgery

Coronary artery disease is a condition that can be treated in many ways and your health outcome will depend on a number of variables such as the severity of your condition and your risk factors. You can significantly improve your health outcome by becoming an active partner in your healthcare team.

This may include:

  1. Having symptoms investigated promptly by your GP or cardiologist to get a proper diagnosis, treatment and care plan
  2. Following your care plan and taking medications as prescribed
  3. Knowing what brings on an attack of angina – the most common group of symptoms you may experience in coronary artery disease – and how to avoid and manage an angina attack including when you should consult your doctor or seek urgent medical attention
  4. Diagnosing and treating related conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and overweight or obesity
  5. Modifying your lifestyle to minimise your risk factors.

Surgery can be a stressful event in your life, so being organized can help alleviate added stress leading up to the day.

Prior to and upon your admission to hospital:

The following points are worth keeping in mind prior to and upon your admission to hospital.

  • Bring all medications with you to the hospital as their effects will need to be assessed by the hospital staff and may need to be re-evaluated following your surgery. Make sure you include all of your prescription medicines as well as non-prescription medicines that you buy at the pharmacy or supermarket and any herbal or complementary medicines too
  • Any form of aspirin will interfere with your blood’s ability to clot, so be sure to tell your surgeon that you’re taking aspirin medication so you can suspend it for the required number of days (often two weeks) prior to the operation
  • The risk of infection can be significantly reduced by thoroughly cleaning the skin. Wash your body thoroughly (including your hair) with an antiseptic soap like Sapoderm in the shower the night and morning before the surgery.
  • Know the average stay when having cardiac surgery is four or five days after the operation, but some people stay a little longer
  • Organise your transport home from hospital prior to having the surgery so you don’t have to worry about it the days after surgery, if you need assistance to organize transport speak with one of the nurses or the hospital social worker to see if they’re able to help you.

What to bring to hospital:

  • Any medications you’re on, including all of your prescription medicines as well as non-prescription medicines that you buy at the pharmacy or supermarket and any herbal or complementary medicines too. The effects of these medications will need to be assessed by the hospital staff and may need to be re-evaluated following your surgery. It may help you to write a list including the reasons you’re taking the mediation, when you take it and how much you take. Many pharmacists offer a service called a medication profile service that helps you keep a list of all of your medicines and why and how to take them. Check with your pharmacist as this is a good service to take advantage of, especially before you go into hospital. It takes about 20–30 minutes and you’ll get a colour print out of your complete list of medicines to bring to hospital with you. Some pharmacists charge a small fee for this service.
  • Antiseptic soap
  • Comfortable pyjamas – perhaps larger than normal so they’re easy to get into
  • Footwear – it’s important that you have slippers or casual shoes that will not slip off when you’re wearing them as they are a common cause of falls in hospital
  • Any regular items and their cases such as glasses, dentures and so on.

On the day of surgery, follow the hospital instructions which will generally include:

  • removing all jewellery
  • fasting from food and water if appropriate
  • removing contact lenses, although you can wear glasses or dentures until you go into surgery.

Prior to surgery:

  • Always take medications prescribed by your doctor
  • Know what brings on your angina
  • Learn how to manage an angina attack
  • If you experience angina during physical activity, slow down, stop and use medication if necessary. If the angina doesn't subside after 10 minutes, call an ambulance.
  • Make sure the people around you know about your condition and what to do if your symptoms are serious.

Potential complications during surgery

No surgery is entirely risk free and complications can occur. The most common complications are:

  • Arrythmias (irregular heart rhythm)
  • Bleeding
  • Stroke (particularly in older people)
  • Wound infections (these are uncommon but a risk nonetheless).

Discuss the likelihood of these complications and any other potential complications with your surgeon or doctor prior to the surgery so you can be prepared if they do occur. You should also discuss the risk of long term complications that can occur in the weeks or years after your surgery and how you can minimise your risk of those complications occurring.

Having a carer by your bedside can be a useful second set of eyes on what’s happening to you and to alert your nurses or doctors if things don’t seem to be right.

Next: Improving your emotional wellbeing

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This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.

Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.

Last published 31 October 2011

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