Preparing for your cardiac surgery and recovery

Senior couple using a laptop and reviewing documents on the couch at home.

Planning ahead for your hospital stay and your discharge back home will help you stay comfortable and focus on your recovery.

Title card of surgery guide video

This video has subtitles in multiple languages. Please click on the wheel icon (settings) at the bottom right of the video player, click “Subtitles,” and then choose from the list of languages.

When to contact your surgeon's office

It is important to be as healthy as possible before having surgery. If you unexpectedly develop any of the following before your surgery, notify the surgeon’s office as soon as possible:  

  • Cold.
  • Fever.
  • Cough. 
  • Flu. 
  • COVID-19.
  • Become pregnant.
  • Any new medical condition/illness.
  • For any reason you feel you need to cancel your surgery.

Planning for your hospital stay

You will be admitted to the hospital on the morning of your surgery. Please check the hospital visitation guidelines for the most current information: 

Visiting the hospital 

Check the webpage below for information and resources to help you and your loved ones plan travel, transportation and accommodation to stay connected while accessing health care services.

Travel & accommodations

What to bring to the hospital checklist

  • Two pieces of personal ID (BC Service Card/Care Card, driver’s license, or other government-issued identification) 
  • Your extended health-care insurance ID card (e.g., extended health care) 
  • Your house keys 
  • Your cardiac surgery patient guide booklet 
  • If you do not speak English, bring someone to assist you. If you need an interpreter, please tell your surgeon before hospital admission. 
  • All your medications in original containers (including non-prescription medications. DO NOT bring your opioid pain medications to the hospital) 
  • Rubber-soled shoes that are easy to put on
  • Comfortable loose clothing and a change of clothes to wear when you go home 
  • For people who wear a bra: a comfortable front closure bra that is easy for you to put on after surgery 
  • Toiletries such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, soap, deodorant, shaving equipment, earplugs, comb/hairbrush
  • Glasses, dentures, retainer, mouth guard, hearing aids, and spare batteries (in the case with your name on it) 
  • Mobility aids you normally use (cane, walker) 
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine (if applicable) 

Please limit your belongings to one small bag. Note there is a ‘no scent’ policy. Do not bring in any scented products or perfumes. 

The hospital is not responsible for lost or stolen valuables. Please leave any valuables at home (including credit cards and jewelry). 

For patients travelling to Vancouver for surgery

  • Arrange accommodations for family members staying in Vancouver while you are in hospital.
  • Bring your government photo ID (Remember: you cannot board a flight without your ID).
  • You cannot drive for a minimum of four weeks after surgery.
  • We recommend you stay one extra night close to town after discharge before heading back home, but this is not mandatory in most cases.

How will I get home?

You will need to arrange your own transportation home. You cannot drive yourself. 

You may travel home by any form of transportation: car, bus or plane. Please arrange for a family member or a friend to pick you up whenever possible. 

If you were brought by ambulance from an outside hospital, you still need to arrange your own transportation home. Ambulance services are not used to return patients to their homes. Patients are usually discharged directly home and are not returned to the original hospital. 

If you need help, please ask to speak with a social worker or case management leader.

Preparing your home for after surgery

You can expect to go home five to seven days after surgery; this varies with each person, depending on the type of surgery and your health. Before coming to the hospital, think about what you will need when you go home (or wherever you will be staying after your procedure). 

After surgery, you will tire easily and will have activity restrictions. Things to prepare ahead of time before your hospital stay: 

  • Arrange transportation home from the hospital. Depending on your surgery, you may not be able to drive for up to six weeks after leaving the hospital. Some people may not be able to drive for longer, depending on their medical condition or license type. If you are planning to fly home, do not book a return flight without speaking to the surgeon’s office or your health-care team in the hospital.
  • Arrange accommodation for after you leave the hospital if you are from out of town and are not immediately going home (hotel, friend’s place, etc.).
  • Arrange for a family member or friend to help with housework and looking after pets and plants.
  • Shop for extra food that is easy to prepare.
  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time so all you have to do is microwave or reheat them.
  • Consider a grocery delivery service.
  • Do your laundry.
  • Clean the house. 
  • Move frequently used items to places where they are easy to reach.
  • Pay your bills.
  • Register for Fair PharmaCare (if you are not already registered).
  • Fill your prescriptions on your way home from the hospital.
  • Arrange for someone to take you to your doctor’s appointments.

Most people do not require someone to stay with them after discharge from the hospital. If you live alone and are concerned or anxious about being at home by yourself after discharge, arrange for family or friends to check in on you or stay with you for a few days until you feel more settled. 


Pre-Admission Clinic (PAC)  

Depending on the kind of surgery and your overall health, you may require a Pre-Admission Clinic (PAC) appointment in person or over the phone. The clinic will contact you to schedule an appointment.   

This appointment is to ensure the care team has all the information they need before your surgery and to give you a chance to ask any questions before arriving at the hospital. 

Your appointment will be about one to two hours, and during your appointment, you will speak to the following individuals:  

  • Anesthesiologist (the doctor who gives you medicine to sleep through the surgery) 
    • They will speak with you about your health history, any specific health concerns, choices for anesthesia, and options for managing your pain during surgery.
    • They may ask you to have blood or other tests before surgery.
  • Pharmacist 
    • They will go over your medications and tell you which medications, supplements, and herbal products you are to take or stop taking before the surgery. 
  • Nurse 
    • They will review what you need to do to prepare before, during, and after surgery. 
    • They will take or ask you about your blood pressure, heart rate, height and weight. 

Depending on your specific health-care needs, you may see other health-care professionals as needed. 

How should I prepare for my PAC appointment?  

  • We recommend that you bring a family member or friend with you to help you keep track of the information you will get during your appointment. 
  • If you do not speak English, bring someone to assist you. If you need an interpreter, please tell the Pre-Admission Clinic or surgeon’s office.  

Bring all the following items to your appointment: 

  • BC Services Card or Care Card.
  • Reading glasses, if needed.
  • All the medications you are taking in their original containers. including prescription medications, over the counter medications, supplements and herbal products. 
  • A summary of your medical history and your health concerns.

If you are already in hospital or emergency admission:

Sometimes, people are admitted to the hospital and treated in the hospital before surgery or are admitted through the Emergency Department and require urgent or emergency surgery.  

If you are admitted to the hospital, your care team will see you there and include nurses, providers (physicians and nurse practitioners), and pharmacists. You may see other health-care professionals if needed. 

The care team members on the hospital unit will come and see you in your hospital room. They will guide you through the process of your surgery, explain the preparation needed, and answer any questions you may have. 

Important considerations

Fair PharmaCare Plan 

We encourage all British Columbians with Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage to register for Fair PharmaCare. Coverage under this plan is based on net income.  

It is available to single people and to families. You may be eligible to get your discharge prescription medications at a reduced cost with the Fair PharmaCare Plan. Ensure you have registered for Fair PharmaCare before your surgery at the link below.

Fair Pharmacare Plan on 

Family Caregiver Benefits 

Family members who take time off work to provide care or support to a family member who undergoes heart surgery may also be eligible for temporary income support through Employment Insurance Family Caregiver Benefits.  A social worker is available in the hospital if you require support.

EI caregiving benefits on 

Financial Considerations 

Many people are unable to work for six to 12 weeks after their surgery. If you are working, you may be able eligible for financial assistance during this period (e.g. extended health benefits, medical employment insurance, critical illness insurance or short-term disability). Ask your Human Resources representative at work or insurance provider about what you are able to access. Your primary care provider, cardiologist, or health-care team in the hospital can assist you with filling out these papers. 

EI sickness benefits on 

Advance Care Planning 

We encourage everyone to have an advance care plan prior to having surgery. Advance care planning helps you have a say about the health care you would like to receive if you get very sick and cannot speak for yourself. It is a way for you to reflect on your values, wishes and beliefs to make future health-care decisions. Your primary care provider and family members won’t have to guess what you would want if you are unable to communicate.

Advanced Care Planning on


Your surgical journey

Waiting for your cardiac surgery

The day before your cardiac surgery

The day of your cardiac surgery

Your recovery in hospital after cardiac surgery

Your recovery in hospital after cardiac surgery: activity and exercise

Your recovery in hospital after cardiac surgery: what to expect each day

Going home from the hospital after cardiac surgery

Your recovery at home after cardiac surgery

Your recovery at home after cardiac surgery: activity and exercise

Adjusting to life after cardiac surgery

Your heart and how it works

Learn more about your heart surgery