Before Heart Surgery Checklist

how to prepare for open heart surgery

Getting ready for heart surgery is no easy feat. Whether it’s preparing for your first open heart surgery or heart bypass surgery, not only are you trying to prepare mentally but physically as well. You might be asking yourself, what should I bring to the hospital or what can I pick up for my Dad before his heart valve surgery? Here is a list I compiled from suggestions from my clients that helped prepare them a little bit better.


This list is a compilation of some of my favorite suggestions and ideas from around the internet. Some external links on this page are affiliate links, meaning if you click an image/link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no extra cost to you. My recommendations for this list are based upon products or services that I feel could help you on your heart health journey. Please don’t spend any money on these products unless you believe they will help you achieve your goals.

Toiletries & Supplies

Hospitals will provide a toothbrush, but it’s always nice to keep one handy, just incase you need a refresh during the day. Lips tend to get dry so a lip balm or chapstick goes a long way!

Bathing and showering may initially be limited, so keep some deodorant and cleansing wipes close by. (PSA: DO NOT use cleansing wipes on scar or incision). It can help you feel less self-conscious and more comfortable to have these items on deck if you need them.

Turn a tactical kit into a hospital toiletry bag? You betcha! The toiletry dopp kit and the multipurpose utility bag can come in clutch. Fill it with your toiletries and grooming supplies and then use the carabiner to clip to the hospital railing. It will keep your necessities within reach! An added bonus? Once you are on the road to recovery, these bags can be utilized for everyday use or outdoor activities like traveling, fishing, hiking, climbing, hunting, camping, trekking and more.

Phone Chargers

Having your phone close by is essential as it is your portal to your family and friends. Sometimes, (most of the time), the phone charger that comes with your phone didn’t know you were going to need heart surgery and therefore, was 5 feet too short. Having a 10-foot long phone charger or a portable phone charger can help you feel secure knowing your phone is charged. Don’t forget your power adapter for these cables!

Some hospitals are upping the anti by having USB chargers in the head rails so you might not even need this long of a cable. However, it’s always good to have on hand just in case the hospital isn’t equipped with the USB ports.

Pro Tip: Wrap the charging cable around the rail on the top portion of the hospital bed. It will keep you from losing it in the sea of sheets.


Your care and comfort is of utmost importance during your recovery from heart surgery and so is your safety. Non-slip hospital socks ensure you can safely walk from your bed to the bathroom or the commode. Having the hospital gown and/or loose fitting clothing can also provide additional comfort. (you can check out my suggestions for clothing for after heart surgery here)

Unfortunately, the hospital room isn’t like your bedroom at home which can make climate control a bit more challenging. If you tend to run cold, ask the nurse for an extra blanket or two or bring your own. If you tend to run hot, bring a small little fan with you. You can even choose a smaller hand-held fan. It helps keep you cool and comfortable.

Depending on your type of heart surgery, you might be in the hospital for a few days and possibly need rehabilitation afterwards. Room lights are constantly being switched on or off during all hours. If you need complete darkness to help you sleep, consider an eye mask. If you also find you are more sensitive to sounds at night time or don’t want to hear your neighbor snoring louder than a freight train, pop some ear plugs in. This can help mimic your sleeping environment at home as closely as possible.

Lastly, consider bringing your headphones or wireless ear buds. You can listen to music, a podcast, an audio book, or calming music. It may be a much-needed distraction to help ease your worries and fears.

Prepare for Coming Home

Survey your home before your heart surgery to look for a few things that could potentially affect your safety and contraindicate post-op instructions.

  • Bottoms Up!
    • Check floor to ceiling and search for any tripping hazards such as carpets, rugs, bags, dog toys, cords, etc. Remove or temporarily stow away.
  • Clean and organize your house prior to day of surgery.
    • You are undergoing surgery which can make you more susceptible to viruses and colds. Give the house a good dusting and scrub so you can return and feel so fresh and so clean!
  • Bring go-to items higher or lower to limit your BLTs (bending, lifting, twisting) after heart surgery.
    • Bathroom
      • Medications, Pill Organizer, and stool softener on counter
      • Toilet paper -> at a reachable distance and stored in an easy to access place
      • Urinal, Commode, Shower Bench in place (optional)
        • May be provided by your insurance company with doctors orders. Medicare Part B covers commodes and may cover additional medical supplies.
        • Can be picked up or ordered from your local surgical supply center or ordered online.
    • Bedroom
      • Fresh set of sheets on bed and pillowcases on pillows
      • Pillows or Wedge to assist you with sleeping
      • Nightstand or tray table next to bed
    • Living Room
      • Favorite chair ready for you! Depending on the extent of expected recovery, an electric recliner can also be considered. It helps you lie down and sit upright with the push of a button. Plus, if you plan on sleeping in the recliner for the first few days or week after surgery, the recliner chair can be adjusted based upon your preference.
    • Kitchen
      • Move pots and pans to a higher or lower cabinet or drawer to avoid bending and lifting
      • Make freezer meals ahead of time to reduce need to cook.
      • Keep appliances on the counter to help you create one dish meals
      • Prep individually-wrapped snacks in the fridge and pantry for easy options.
      • Keep a reusable water bottle handy to encourage fluid intake and keeping things moving!

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