Learn how to prepare for cardiac surgery at home before your procedure.

Which health and lifestyle changes should I make before my surgery to ensure the best outcome?

Before your operation it is important for you to try and make yourself as fit as possible.

You can do this by eating a heart healthy diet.

If you smoke, it is a great idea to try to quit or cut down smoking before your procedure.

If you drink alcohol it is recommended that you give up drinking for a month before your operation.

With your doctor’s permission, it is also useful to increase your exercise habits before your surgery: even a short walk every other day is a good start.

Please keep your surgeon and/or physician informed of any other medical issues you may have prior to surgery. For example, patients who may be pregnant should discuss this with their family doctor or surgeon prior to the day of surgery.


If you develop a cold, fever or any flu-like symptoms prior to your surgery date, notify your surgeon’s office at 604-522-6800 or 604-520-4392 as your surgery may need to be rescheduled.

Where do I go for cardiac surgery in Fraser Health?

Fraser Health's Royal Columbian Hospital performs more than a thousand cardiac surgeries every year. These surgeries include:

Your surgery may involve one of these procedures or a combination of two or more. For example, it is not uncommon for a patient to have surgical correction of both a valve and blocked arteries in the heart.

Candidates for surgery require a referral from a cardiologist and assessment of the patient’s condition by a cardiac surgeon before acceptance for surgery. The cardiac surgeon will review all the films from the angiogram done in the cardiac catheterization lab along with blood test results and an assessment of symptoms. Surgery will be scheduled using a priority triage system based on the severity of the condition.

How do I prepare the day before surgery?

The day before surgery, it is important to have a bowel movement. If you haven't had a bowel movement by early evening, you will need to use one Bisacodyl┬« rectal suppository at 6 p.m. These can be purchased at any drug store. You should also have an evening snack and a drink of juice or milk. Snacks might include: 

  • Four to six packages of crackers or tea biscuits with one or two packages of cheese or peanut butter
  • A muffin with cheese or peanut butter
  • Two servings of yogurt or a high-protein pudding
  • A half or full sandwich

How do I prepare on the evening before surgery?

No solid food is permitted after midnight on the evening before your surgery. However, unless instructed otherwise you can drink as many clear fluids as you wish.

You also need to clean yourself in a particular way. Shower or bathe and shampoo your hair using your regular products. Rinse well. Wait about one hour.

Once your skin is completely dry and cool, use the Sage antiseptic wipes that will be provided to you in the pre-admission clinic visit. Scrub your skin with small gentle circular motions using the directions provided with the diagram below. Do not rinse.

Evening before surgery preparation
  1. Wipe your neck and the front of your chest to your waist with a fresh cloth and discard.
  2. With a fresh cloth, wipe each arm, starting at the shoulder and ending at fingertips Be sure to thoroughly wipe the armpit areas. Flip the cloth between arms then discard.
  3. With a fresh cloth, wipe each leg, starting at the thigh and ending at the toes. Be sure to thoroughly wipe behind your knees and in between your toes. Flip cloth between legs then discard.
  4. With a fresh cloth, wipe your stomach area below your waist including under any skin folds and your belly button. Flip the cloth and wipe each hip followed by your groin and finish by cleaning your front private parts then discard. (Do not wipe inside genital area).
  5. With a fresh cloth, wipe each buttock from waist down. Flip cloth between buttocks. Finish by cleaning your back private parts then discard. (Do not wipe anus).
  6. With a fresh cloth, wipe your back, starting at your neck and ending at your waist. Cover as much area as possible, then get assistance to finish and discard cloth.

After using the Sage wipes, do not put anything on your skin: No lotions, perfumes, colognes, deodorants, powder or make-up. Wear freshly laundered pajamas or a clean T-shirt after the body scrub. (No need to change your bed linens.)

How do I prepare the morning of surgery?

You need to follow specific directions the morning of surgery. Do not shower or bathe. Do not wash your hair.

At 5 a.m. drink 1 to 2 glasses (up to 500 mL) of apple or cranberry juice and then have nothing by mouth, unless instructed otherwise.

If surgery is scheduled for the afternoon, repeat the above at 8 a.m., then nothing by mouth, unless instructed otherwise.

Patients with diabetes are asked to follow the instructions provided in the pre-admission clinic unless instructed otherwise. Do not take any aspirin the morning of your surgery.

What should I bring with me to the hospital?

On the day of your surgery, please ensure you bring:

  • Your BC Care Card, photo identification and the white identification bracelet given to you from the hospital lab or pre-admission clinic
  • The patient belongings bag including the incentive spirometer and heart pillow
  • A list of your current medications
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste and/or denture cleansing materials
  • Comb and/or hairbrush
  • Housecoat/robe and slippers with closed heels and rubber or non-skid soles
  • Dentures, glasses and/or hearing aids
  • Several pairs (at least three) of clean underwear
  • Women should bring a bra with a front closure and no underwire
  • You are also encouraged to bring a book to read as well as any electronic devices and headphones. Cell phones are permitted in all patient areas.Televisions are available for a rental fee on the 2 South unit. The second floor enjoys complimentary Wi-Fi access. Ask your nurse for the current password.

Please be advised that although we will make every effort to keep your items secure, the hospital is not responsible for any loss or theft of belongings. Do not keep cash, credit cards or other valuables with you.