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Heart Surgery

Waiting for Surgery

The Cardiac Surgery Wait List

Once you decide to have the surgery, your name is put on the cardiac surgery wait list. This confidential list records, tracks, and monitors the status of everyone waiting for heart surgery.

The wait time for your surgery depends on a number of things, including:

  • the date you were referred to the heart surgeon
  • your priority level
  • the number of people in each priority level
  • how bad your heart condition is and how bad your symptoms are

Your priority level is decided based on your diagnosis and symptoms. If your condition changes while you’re waiting for surgery, call your family doctor, cardiologist, or surgeon so you can be assessed again.

Your discharge planning starts even before you’re admitted to the hospital. Most people go home between 4 and 7 days after surgery. You and your surgery team will decide when you’re ready to go home.

While You’re Waiting

While you’re waiting for surgery keep yourself as healthy as you can. Get as much rest as possible, and follow the treatment plan for your condition.

  • Your family doctor will monitor you while you’re waiting for surgery. This is also who you’ll see for your follow-up care after you leave the hospital. Make sure you tell your doctor right away if your health changes.
  • If you don’t have a family doctor, please find one before your surgery. You can call Health Link at 811 or go to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta for help finding a doctor.
  • Keep taking your prescription medicine as instructed.
  • If you can, have all dental work you may need done before your surgery.
  • A healthy diet helps you recover sooner from surgery. Eat balanced meals that include grain products, vegetables and fruits, milk and milk alternatives, and meat and meat alternatives.
  • If you need to lose weight, eat smaller portions of balanced meals. Ask your family doctor to refer you to a dietitian or visit the Dietitians of Canada website.
  • Don’t try to lose weight fast before surgery. Losing too much weight or losing it too fast isn’t good for your heart.
  • Know your limits and learn to pace yourself. If you’re tired, stop and rest. If you have angina, use your nitroglycerin as instructed.
  • Ask your family doctor about safe ways to exercise while you’re waiting for surgery.
  • Try to get enough sleep so that you feel rested. Rest or nap during the day whenever you feel tired.


If you’ve stopped smoking to get ready for surgery, congratulations! If you’re still smoking, stop! Smoking makes your heart work harder and lowers the amount of oxygen in your blood. It also affects how well your lungs work. People who smoke take longer to recover from surgery.

If you need help, AlbertaQuits is a free resource for Albertans who want help to quit smoking or quit other tobacco or addictive products. Visit their website to learn more.

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