Before You Enter the Hospital

New Patient Forms

Q: Do I need to quit smoking before surgery?

A: If you smoke, quit. Smoking makes you more prone to developing pneumonia and pulmonary complications after surgery. It also makes your heart work harder, and accelerates the atherosclerotic process. You must quit smoking at least 3 weeks prior to surgery.

Q: Should I stop my medications before the day of surgery?

A: Consult your physician if you are unsure about the continuation of any medications you may be taking. It is advisable to discontinue blood-thinning medications such as aspirin, Coumadin®, Persantine, Ticlid and Motrin 5-7 days prior to surgery.

  • Aspirin. Please check with your cardiologist regarding continuing aspirin (salicylates) prior to surgery. Aspirin should also not be used as an over-the-counter medication in the week prior to surgery. Many over-the-counter medicines, such as Anacin, Bufferin, NSAID'S (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) contain salicylates and should be avoided.
  • On the morning of your surgery, you may take your medications with a minimal amount of water.

Q: Who should speak to my doctor after surgery?

A: It is beneficial to designate one family member or friend to maintain communication with your surgeon and the healthcare team. This will enhance the flow of information and decrease the chance for miscommunication.

Q: How can blood be donated for me?

A: Columbia University Medical Center relies on voluntary blood donors and extensive testing to maintain safe blood supplies. Please speak with your surgeon well in advance of surgery regarding blood banking and the possibility of donating blood for yourself or having family and friends donate blood before surgery.

Q: Who is the best professional to speak with about discharge planning?

A: Social workers are available to help you with a range of concerns you may have about the hospitalization and discharge arrangements. If you would like to take advantage of these services, ask your doctor or nurse about speaking with a social worker.

Q: How do I plan for myself in case of post-operative issues?

A: Patient representatives are available to provide patients with Health Care Proxy forms and organ donation cards. An Advance Directive is verbal or written instructions made by you in advance of illness that communicate your wishes regarding treatment. Advance directives include, but are not limited to a health care proxy, a living will and a consent to a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order recorded in your medical record. If you have any questions, you may call Patient Relations at 212.305.5904.

  • Health Care Proxy: New York State has a law that enables you to appoint someone you trust, (a family member or close friend) as your Health Care Agent, to decide about your treatment if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can appoint a Health Care Agent by signing a form called a Health Care Proxy.
  • A Living Will is a written document that expresses, in advance, your specific instructions /choices about various types of medical treatment. Living wills are recognized as evidence of your wishes if you are seriously ill and not able to communicate.

It is encouraged that the patient designate a Health Care Proxy or write a Living Will before any major surgery.

Q: What is Same Day Surgery or being a Same Day Patient?

A: As a same day patient, you will arrive at the Milstein Hospital Building Lobby 2 hours before your scheduled operation time. (For example, if your surgery is scheduled for 8 AM, arrive at Admitting at 6 AM.) Changes in the schedule due to unanticipated emergencies, such as heart transplants, may occur. We request that you are accompanied by either a family member or a friend. Security will direct you to the Admitting Office and from there you will be directed to the Operating Rooms on the 4th Floor.

Q: What happens if I am an inpatient or transfer patient?

A: If you are admitted to the hospital before your day of surgery, you will be assigned a room where you will spend the night. You will meet with a physician who will discuss your surgery and answer any questions you or your family may have. You will also be visited by members of your surgical team, an anesthesiologist and the Cardiac Education Coordinator. The aim is to obtain the clearest possible picture of your medical history while offering you a chance to get information about your treatment from a wide range of sources.

You will be asked a series of questions about any previous health problems or operations you have had and any allergies you may have to foods or medicines. Be sure to provide the exact names and dosages of all medications you are taking, including aspirin, cold medicines, vitamins and homeopathic (or botanical) pharmaceuticals.

Q: What happens with my medical insurance for my heart surgery?

A: Most insurance companies require pre-certification for hospitalization. Your surgeon's office will obtain pre-certification for the surgical procedure only. It is your responsibility to verify coverage for all other aspects of your hospital stay. At the Admitting Office, you will be asked to pay in full or for estimated charges not covered by your insurance. The hospital will accept cash, checks and major credit cards for payment. Any questions regarding finances may be handled in advance by calling the Admitting Office at 212.305.4681. Please be aware that there is an additional charge for a private room, television and telephone usage. Television and phone are paid for on a daily basis.

Q: How can I prevent infection of my new heart valve?

A: Infection of a heart valve can be reduced with antibiotics taken before any invasive procedures, such as a dental procedure.