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It's Topic Tuesday!

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Today is all about Pre/Post Op Suggestions


Aortic Hope has compiled for you, a list of thoughts, questions and items in preparation for and after Open Heart Surgery:

1. It is strongly suggested to have a loved one or friend with you during your consultation or pre-op appointment.

  • Having another “set of ears” during such a scare and emotional time will help retain answers to many of your questions.

  • Another person who cares about you being present during your appointment might also have additional questions or concerns that should be addressed.

2. Make a list of questions and topics to discuss with your physician during your pre-op appointment and things to ask your surgeon. Here are some suggestions:

  • How many hours do they think the surgery will last?

  • How long do they think you will be in the hospital?

  • What, exactly, is the procedure. (ex: repairing tissue? replacing a valve, what kind? what are the risks and benefits to each option? etc.)

  • What can you expect when you wake up? (ex: breathing tube, chest tubes, wires, IVs, catheter, etc.)

  • Pain management (have a plan)

  • Can a loved one spend the night?

3. If you are someone who tends to become anxious, discuss this with your provider and ask your doctor to prescribe something before and after your surgery, if possible. Having a medication to “take the edge off” might make the whole event easier to tolerate.

4. See if they allow a family member to stay with you in the hospital.

5. Suggestions of things to pack:

  • Pack sweats/shorts and pajamas.

    • Silk pajama, we know that's a luxury, but honestly they can be practical.

      • They are soft on your skin

      • They are slippery, which makes it easy to slip on and off

  • Slippers or socks with tread (they are nicer than the rubber socks the hospital gives you)

  • Women - don’t bother with a bra, it can be uncomfortable plus with OHS, you might wake up in one the hospital provides you which can be helpful after surgery

  • Think about bringing some essential oils like Lavender, Chamomile, Rose, and Frankincense that reduce stress and anxiety and promote relaxation. Some hospitals will even provide oils like lavender. Use them they work.

  • Pack toiletries.

    • While the hospital will provide you with a toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash and even deodorizer, we strongly suggest you bring the products you like.

    • The familiar smells and tastes will feel more like home and will help with your recovery, plus they are just better!

    • Some people shower and others find they never end up showering during their hospital stay so we suggest bringing dry shampoo, a brush, and a razor.

6. Don’t forget to pack your cell phone and charger. Don’t worry about an ipad, you won’t want to exert that much energy.

7. Remember, whatever you bring to the hospital, you have to take home, to don’t overdue it!

8. Accept visitors. They really do help you feel better and lighten things up. Also, have visitors check first to see if it's a good time for you. You will do lots of napping in the hospital just after surgery.

9. Don't try to ‘tough-it-out’ and turn away pain medicine. Pain and inflammation can hinder the healing process. If you are in too much pain, you can't do a good job with the required breathing exercises.

  • Feel comfortable pressing the PCA (Patient Controlled Analgesia) button as often as you like. It won’t administer more medication than what is safe, and it won’t administer medication too soon.

  • For patients who aren’t given a PCA, don’t hesitate using the call button to request pain medication. In a typical ICU or CICU ward, the ratio of patients to nurses is usually 2 to 1, the nursing staff is there to help you. If you don’t let them know you are hurting, they can’t help. Remember, pain management is very important in the healing process.

10. Get up and sit or walk when you can. Movement is good for you and necessary in order to be discharged. It is equally important to rest too.

11. Ask somebody to take picture of you while in the hospital.

  • Examples of pictures are; you on the respirator when your not awake yet, getting up and walking, sitting in a chair, some progress that you've made, etc.

  • We have seen several pictures from survivors in the aortic community that are similar to what we have listed. You can always choose not to view it later but if you don’t have the picture and need or want to remember a moment, it will be too late.

  • Many survivors find it therapeutic to look back and see a record of their hospital stay.

  • It aides them in seeing how well they are recovering. It’s a personal choice.

12. Ask a close friend or family member to provide updates about your progress. Updates can include phone calls or Facebook notifications.

  • People who care about you will be very concerned. Remember, this is tough for them as well however, they might not want to bother you.

  • Some major hospitals have a page specifically for the patients. One site that exists is

  • When you are able to, you can provide your own updates as well.

13. Ask your your family and friends to bring cards, games, or whatever they would like.

  • The wait during surgery can take several hours. This will help pass time and be a bit of a distraction.

14. Ask questions about your surgery and where you are in recovery.

  • You might not remember why you were in the hospital to begin with.

  • OHS can be very taxing on the mind and body.

  • You might find yourself asking the same questions over and over again, it’s ok.

15. You might cry

  • OHS has been shown to cause some depression, so does anesthesia. Cry, it’s okay to show emotions. Survivors have shared that the crying spells only lasted a few weeks.

16. Here is a strange but tried and true tip

  • Bring some peppermint, whether toothpaste or an altoid. When your catheter is removed, it can take some time before your bladder “wakes up”. It has been shared that if you feel as though you need to void, smell some peppermint and you shouldn’t have any difficulties. No one wants to be re-cathed!

17. Another great tip from some survivors

  • If you potassium level, for whatever reason becomes low and you need to have some administered...potassium through the IV burns terribly. Try to remember to ask your nurses to have the medication running slowly.

18. Nurses are AMAZING, however, you could find that you aren’t meshing with a particular nurse. It is okay to ask to speak with a charge nurse and have your room reassigned. Your recovery is paramount and you want to make sure you don’t have any unnecessary stress.

19. Find out from your physician if he/she will be prescribing cardiac rehab. If not, you might want to consider asking your doctor to prescribe physical therapy.

  • It has been noted that many patients, after OHS, experience trouble with their posture, stamina, strength, arms, shoulder, even breathing. Physical Therapy, when approved, can greatly assist with breathing to control stress, posture (since you possibly won’t be allowed to stretch overhead, twist or even stand upright for some time), strength and stamina (after recovering for so many days or weeks, you will find that some strength and stamina may have decreased).

  • Some survivors have reported having sore arms or shoulders from the positioning that is implemented during surgery. This surgery could last a long time, so complaining of soreness has been reported. PT can help alleviate the discomfort.

20. Mental health

  • As described earlier, some survivors has discussed with us feeling blue or a general depression, after surgery.

  • While this is normal, there might be occasions when it needs to be addressed. Some survivors have discussed having PTSD, especially after having emergency surgery as with a dissection.

  • The brain can be affected from such a major trauma/surgery and should be cared for. Don’t hesitate reaching out to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker to help you with your emotions. There can be many and it can be confusing.

  • Aortic Hope also offers support groups that meet virtually, via a video conference call. We are also here, with the help of the community, to provide our own stories of survival as a tool to help you with yours.

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