How to Prepare for Bypass Surgery

Three Parts:Preparing In the Weeks before SurgeryGetting Ready 24 Hours before SurgeryGoing to the Hospital on the Day of Surgery

Although any type of surgery can be a frightening prospect, coronary bypass surgery can bring a unique set of fears and concerns. Since any bypass is a major surgery, you’ll need to start preparing weeks in advance. Work closely with your primary doctor and your surgeon, and follow their directions to ensure that you’re physically prepared for your bypass by taking all necessary medications and tests. You’ll also need to plan ahead for transportation to and from the hospital, and prepare yourself and your home for the weeks you’ll spend recovering from the surgery.

Part 1
Preparing In the Weeks before Surgery

  1. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 1
    Keep all appointments with your surgeon. He or she will schedule preoperative tests and give personalized instructions. Make sure that you feel sufficiently informed about the serious surgical procedure you’ll be undergoing.[1]
    • If you have any questions for the surgeon about what the operation entails or how long the recovery process will be, this is the time to ask.
  2. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 2
    Tell your surgeon about all medications you’re taking. This list of medications should include all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and also any supplemental or herbal remedies you regularly take. Your doctor will decide whether the medications should be changed or stopped before surgery.[2]
    • Be certain to mention any blood-thinning medications to your doctor. He or she may ask you to discontinue taking these medications at some point before surgery. Follow your doctor’s directions.
    • Coordinate between your surgeon and primary doctor about other medical conditions such as blood disorders or diabetes. Adjustments or special monitoring before surgery may be required.
  3. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 4
    Arrange for transportation. You’ll be unable to drive following the surgery, so you’ll need to find a friend or family member who can drive you to and from the hospital. You’ll also need help at home for four to six weeks following your surgery.[3]
    • After the four to six week period, you’ll be able to return to work, resume driving, and have a more normal daily life around your house. As you slowly heal during that time, the amount of in-home assistance you’ll need will decrease.
    • You may need to discuss in-home care with the hospital staff if no friends or family are available.
  4. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 3
    Have all required tests done by the scheduled times. It’s important to have your health monitored in the weeks before your surgery, and your doctor and surgeon can advise you about which specific tests you’ll need to undergo. These tests will likely include:[4]
    • A red blood cell count. If your blood cell count is too low, you may be anemic and may need to receive a blood transfusion during surgery.
    • Clotting tests. These measure the time that it takes for your blood to form a clot. You may need to take these tests if you have recently stopped taking any blood-thinning drugs.
    • Chest x-rays. This will give your surgeon an idea of the size and shape of your heart and aorta.
    • An electrocardiogram (ECG). This measures small electrical signals produced by your heart.
  5. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 5
    Discuss emergency resuscitation and life support options with your loved ones. You should have legal documents pertaining to these matters, including a living will, properly filed.[5]
    • Serious complications, including death, are rare from a coronary bypass, but can still occur.

Part 2
Getting Ready 24 Hours before Surgery

  1. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 7
    Stop eating and drinking at the times directed by your doctor or surgeon. This is important to alleviate the risk of nausea and vomiting from the anesthesia. If you disobey the surgeon’s instructions, they may cancel the surgery.[6]
    • Do not drink any alcohol within the 24 hours preceding your surgery. It can cause serious reactions with medications given at the hospital.
  2. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 8
    Pack the bag you will bring to the hospital. The hospital will provide personal care items, so you will not need to bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and soap, etc. You should not bring any valuables to the hospital with you. Leave expensive electronics at home. Pack a bag that includes:[7]
    • Personal identification and insurance information.
    • Emergency contact information.
    • Comfortable, roomy clothes that you can wear both to and from the hospital.
    • Any necessary personal items, including glasses or dentures.
  3. 3
    Finalize transportation and home-care plans. Check with the person who will be taking you to the hospital, and make sure that they will arrive to pick you up on time. Also take this time to straighten and clean your home, as you will not have the energy to do this once you’ve returned from the surgery.[8]
    • Since you’ll be largely sedentary for the days following your surgery, put whatever you’ll need during that time (tissues, TV remote, laptop or tablet, etc.) by your sofa or bed.

Part 3
Going to the Hospital on the Day of Surgery

  1. 1
    Shower and clean your chest. In addition to being good hygiene, it’s important that you clean yourself before you go in for surgery. Bacteria on your body can infect the surgeon’s incision, and lead to serious infection following the bypass surgery.[9]
    • If you enter the hospital without thoroughly showering first, you’ll also introduce bacteria into the hospital environment.
    • Your doctor may have given you a disinfectant solution specifically to clean your chest with. This solution will reduce the risk of post-surgery infection at the incision [10]
  2. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 6
    Arrive at the hospital early. You should plan to get to the hospital at least 1 hour or 2 before your surgery so final tests and paperwork can be done. You’ll likely be sent to a pre-admission clinic before you’re admitted for surgery.[11]
    • The clinic will note your medical history, and may also perform an ECG or other quick tests prior to your surgery.
  3. Image titled Prepare for Bypass Surgery Step 9
    Take any medications, as your surgeon has directed. Since you shouldn’t eat or drink during this time, you’ll need to take the medicines with only a sip of water.
    • Try to relax as much as possible during this time. Say goodbye to the family member or friend who drove you to the hospital, and ask the hospital staff any questions you have about your upcoming surgery.


  • Review a checklist with a loved one to make sure you are not forgetting something before your surgery.
  • If you have any upcoming bills due, pay them before your surgery. That way, you won’t have to worry about missing any payments shortly after you return from the hospital.
  • Stock up on foods that are quick and easy to prepare. You won’t want to spend much time making meals once you’ve returned from the hospital.[12]
  • If you smoke, stop smoking (even if only temporarily) before you surgery. Smoking can increase your chances of developing a chest infection, and can increase your risk of developing dangerous blood clots.[13]

Article Info

Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure