How to Make Practical Arrangements for Heart Disease


In most areas you will be notified when you have to go into hospital a week or two beforehand. You may be told to stop certain drugs beforehand – check with your doctor or consultant.

During the run-up to your operation you will also need to make practical arrangements: someone to look after you when you go home, arranging for someone to keep an eye on your house if it is to be empty, getting someone to look after any pets you have and packing your bag. You will usually be given a list of what you need to take in by the hospital. Don’t forget to have some small change for telephone calls. It may also be a good idea to pack a relaxation tape and a tape recorder. The following advice is based on information contained in London’s St George’s Healthcare Trust leaflet, Preparing for Heart Surgery:

Practical Arrangements

  • Discuss who will be taking you home from hospital.
  • If you are being driven home by a member of the family or a friend it is helpful to get a small cushion to place between your chest and seat belt, as by law you still have to wear a seat belt after your operation.
  • In the first two weeks after you get home it is helpful to have a family member with you to give general support. They may need to arrange to take time off work.
  • Some people like to go to a convalescence home after their operation. Such homes are almost always private. Staff at the hospital may be able to advise you on one in your area.

In hospital

You will usually be admitted the day before your operation and will usually have to have a chest X-ray, ECGs, blood and urine tests to make sure that the doctor has a full picture of your current health. You will also be asked about your drinking and smoking habits and any drugs you are taking regularly. It is important to be completely honest as they may affect your recovery.

The anesthetist will usually visit you some time during the day or evening before your operation to explain what is involved, your chest will be washed with an antiseptic solution and – if you are a man and have a hairy chest – will be shaved. You will not be able to have anything to eat after midnight because anesthesia is safer on an empty stomach.

On the morning of your operation you will be given a mild tranquillizer to help you keep calm, electrodes will be attached to you so your heart can be monitored throughout the operation. You will be given a general anesthetic (the last thing you will remember is likely to be the anesthetic drug given in your veins). Intravenous lines will be inserted into the veins of your arm or wrist to allow the anesthetist to drip drugs directly into your bloodstream and to keep your body fluid level balanced. One of these lines is threaded all the way up to the vena cava, a large vein near the heart. Another allows the staff to monitor your blood pressure and oxygen level in your arteries. You will also have catheters (fine tubes) inserted into your neck vein to monitor blood flow and arterial pressure and also a urinary catheter to collect urine (a sign of how well the kidneys are functioning). A tube called an end tracheal tube is inserted into your windpipe. This is connected to a respirator, a machine that breathes for you. Another tube called a nasogastric tube is inserted to collect stomach fluids to avoid your being sick.

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About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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