Cardiac surgery

Cardiovascular surgery is performed by one of Kingston Health Sciences Centre's (KHSC) cardiac surgeons on the heart, its valves, or the major arteries and veins that circulate blood between your heart and lungs and between your heart and the rest of your body.

Your care team will include a cardiologist, cardiac surgeon, nurse practitioner, nurses, anesthesiologist, physiotherapist, dietitian and pharmacist. You may encounter a variety of other health providers while you are in the hospital. Find more information about how to prepare for your surgery

There are two ways your journey to undergo heart surgery could begin, they are:


  • You will be admitted to KHSC's Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site from either another hospital, an Emergency Department, or the KGH site's Cardiovascular lab and will be prepared for surgery.
  • We will perform some routine blood tests, a chest x-ray and other imaging tests such as an ECHO, cardiac angiogram or CT scan to help us better understand the type of care you require. Find out more about heart tests.
  • You will speak with a cardiac surgeon and if surgery is required, one will be booked.
  • We will provide you with cardiac surgery education on what to expect. 
  • You can't eat or drink anything beginning at midnight before the day of your surgery. You can have a little water with your morning medications.


  • You are referred to the Cardiac Surgery Clinic by a cardiologist, internist or your family physician.
  • An appointment will be booked for you at the KGH site for a consultation with a cardiac surgeon.
  • If you and your surgeon agree to move ahead with surgery, we will begin blood tests and do an ECG exam and chest x-ray during that appointment. If you do not want to go ahead with surgery the cardiac surgeon may ask to follow your condition or make suggestions for your care to your cardiologist or family doctor.
  • The cardiac surgery office will call you and book your appointment for pre-surgical screening at KHSC's Hotel Dieu Hospital site.
  • You will meet with an anesthetist and a pharmacist.
  • Once you are approved by the pre-surgical screening office and the cardiac surgeon for surgery, we will call you and book a date for your surgery. 
  • On the day of your surgery, you should arrive at the Same-day Admission Centre, located on Connell 2 at the KGH site, at the time discussed with you. 

Day of surgery

  • On the day of your surgery, you will be taken to the operating room for surgery then you will return to the Cardiac Sciences Unit to recover for approximately 24 hours.

  • When you awake from surgery you will notice that many tubes and wires are attached to you. These can include chest tubes, pacer wires, IV lines, an arterial line, a foley catheter and a cardiac monitor. The breathing tube will be removed shortly after you return from the operating room (usually within two-to-four hours). Shortly after the breathing tube is removed, you will be able to sit up in bed. 

  • Within 24 hours many of the other tubes will be removed and you may be transferred to another area in the hospital, such as Kidd 3 or Davies 3.

  • Once you are transferred to your hospital room you will be expected to sit up in a chair at least three times per day and begin walking in the hall.

  • You may have pain in your chest, back, shoulders, neck and legs. You will be offered pain medication regularly to help manage your discomfort. You may also feel some shortness of breath or experience some palpitations during your recovery. 

  • Your health-care team will talk to you about sternal precautions, so you understand how to protect your chest during your recovery. 

  • You can expect to remain in the hospital for about four to seven days before you are able to go home. 

Recovery information

As you recover from your surgery, there are a number of things to keep in mind. They are:

  • You will need to practice sternal precautions to protect your chest for a minimum of six weeks.
  • Do not lift, push or pull anything more than 5-10 lbs for six weeks.
  • You will be provided with a pillow to protect your chest when you get in and out of bed, get in and out of a chair, and when coughing.
  • You should not drive for six weeks after your surgery. 
  • Follow the walking program outlined in the patient and family guide to heart surgery.
  • Months after your surgery, when you have healed, we will refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation centre closest to your home.
  • Call your surgeon's office or the cardiac program nurse practitioner if your incision is concerning you. (For example, if your incision is leaking.)
  • If you had valve surgery ask your health-care team about a valve card, dental care and your anticoagulation needs.
  • Make an appointment with your family doctor for approximately one to two weeks after you have been discharged from the hospital.
  • Your family doctor will remove any remaining staples or sutures from your incision(s), if there are any, and will assess your overall health, including checking vitals and reviewing changes to medications. 
  • Your cardiac surgeon's office will contact you to book a follow-up appointment to take place approximately three months after your surgery.