What to expect for your loved one
Knowing that a loved one is having surgery can
be scary. We want to lower your stress by
making sure you know what to expect.
It is helpful to the staff if you choose one person
as the main contact to call the unit for updates.
We will write their number down on the board in
The nursing unit is busiest between 6-8:30 am
and 6-8:30 pm and there may be longer hold
times if you call during these hours. If our staff
is not able to talk when you call, we will call you
back as soon as we can.
When your loved one gets to their room after
surgery, we will spend some time (1-2 hours)
getting them settled before visitors can come
back. Please expect shorter visits for the first few
Patients will be hooked up to many tubes and
lines right after surgery. We will take them out
as soon as they are not needed. Patients can also
be quite swollen after surgery; do not let this
Having a breathing tube can be scary or
upsetting to patients. The nurses will be there to
treat their pain and help them to stay calm. Your
loved one will not be able to talk, so please ask
them yes/no questions.
A few hours after the breathing tube is out, we
will help them up to a chair. Patients are to be up
walking in the halls at least four times a day.
This will help them to heal faster.
While our goal is to control pain as much as
possible, patients should expect some pain as
they heal. All patients will have their blood sugar
checked often during the first few days, even if
they are not diabetic. Their finger will be poked
with a very small needle as often as every 1-2
hours. Good blood sugar control helps reduce the
risk of infection after surgery.
Patients are not allowed to eat solid food until
they have had a bowel movement. We will then
offer a heart healthy meal plan and limit their ice
chip and water intake to help control nausea and
Patients need to follow sternal precautions for 12
weeks from surgery. These precautions allow
the sternum (breastbone) to heal properly. This
No lifting, pushing, or pulling more than 8
pounds for the first six weeks (week 1-6)
Then, no lifting, pushing, or pulling more
than 15-20 pounds until 12 weeks post-
Avoid twisting motions and over the head
activities, such as raising the elbow above
the shoulder (week 1-6)
Ride in the back seat of a vehicle if possible
Do not lay on either side for 12 weeks after
No driving for at least 4 weeks from surgery
and until you are no longer taking opioids.
If your loved one needs help in their room, the
best way to alert staff is to use the call light.
Please feel free to ask any questions you might
have! More detailed information can be found in
your patient education binder.
We make every effort to prevent falls after
surgery. Your loved one will be asked to
follow our staff’s instructions to take every
effort to prevent these falls.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 5/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7877
What to expect after surgery
Having surgery can be scary. We want to
lower your stress by making sure you know
what to expect.
When you first wake up from surgery, you
will have a breathing tube to help you
breathe. This can be scary or make you feel
anxious. The nurses will be there to treat
your pain and help you to stay calm. You
will not be able to talk, so your nurses will
ask you yes/no questions.
Once the breathing tube is out, you are to be
up in the chair and walking in the halls at
least four times a day. Staff will be there to
While you can expect some pain after
surgery, our goal is to control your pain to a
level that allows you to be active in your
recovery (coughing/deep breathing and
All patients have their blood sugar checked
often during the first few days, even if you
are not diabetic. Your finger will be poked
with a very small needle as often as every 1-
2 hours. Good blood sugar control helps
reduce the risk of infection after surgery.
Ice chips and water will be limited right
after surgery. This helps with nausea and
healing for your body. You will be allowed
to eat low salt foods once you have a bowel
movement for the first time after surgery.
Until then, you will be on a liquid diet.
You will be asked to follow instructions
from the nursing staff to prevent falls.
You will need to follow sternal precautions
for 12 weeks from your surgery. These
precautions allow your sternum (breastbone)
to heal properly. This includes:
No lifting, pushing, or pulling more
than 8 pounds for the first six weeks
Then, no lifting, pushing, or pulling
more than 15-20 pounds until 12 weeks
Avoid twisting motions and over the
head activity, such as raising your
elbows above your shoulders (Week 1-
Ride in the backseat of a vehicle if
possible (week 1-4)
No laying on either side for 12 weeks
No driving for a minimum of 4 weeks
from surgery and until you are no
longer taking opioids
Our number one focus is your care and
safety. While rest is important, we need to
make sure you are safe. We will watch you
very closely and check on you at least every
1-2 hours the first few days.
Please feel free to ask any questions you
might have! More detailed information can
be found in your patient education binder.