Frequently Asked Questions

When your GP suggests seeing a cardiologist

Please see a cardiologist at Auckland Heart Group who can assess your current medical situation and get any further tests done if necessary.

Your cardiologist has recommended surgery what happens next?

Usually, your cardiologist will refer you to a cardiothoracic surgeon and keep you informed. Once we’ve received your referral with all relevant details, we will contact you directly to organise a consultation with your surgeon.

What happens at the consultation with the heart surgeon?

As part of that consult, we will take a complete medical and personal history not just limited to your surgical problem. A complete list of your current medication and any important allergies, previous surgeries is helpful. We will also inquire about any smoking or alcohol history and a general systems enquiry. We will then conduct a brief but complete examination of your lung and cardiovascular system.

The exact planned operation will be discussed with you and your family and importantly include a discussion of our perceived risks of surgery as they relate to your particular circumstances. You and your family are encouraged to ask any questions you may have – we would much prefer to answer these before the operation if possible. We believe it is crucial that you and your family are clear about why surgery has been recommended, what operation is proposed, the likely benefits of that surgery and importantly any significant anticipated risks. We discuss risks not to frighten you but hopefully in fact to reassure you or at least have them put into perspective since we want you and your family having the same understanding as us.

Do I need to inform my insurance company of my forthcoming surgery?

We are an affiliated provider for Southern Cross cardiac surgeries and hence if your surgery is cardiac in nature then we will obtain a pre-approval number directly with Southern Cross.

However if you have any other insurance provider or are having a thoracic (lung) surgery , then you yourself will have to obtain a pre-approval number from your insurance company. We will however provide you an estimate for your intended surgery to be forwarded to your insurance provider.

When will I be admitted to hospital?

For all heart and lung surgeries- we usually admit patients at 2 pm day prior to your intended surgery. However, if you’re travelling from out of town and would prefer same-day admission, please contact Sweety who will try to negotiate your admission time with Mercy Hospital.

What else shall I disclose at my initial consultation?

  • Any allergies or difficulties with any previous anesthetic as well as a list of the medicines you are currently taking. If any members of your family have had complications with anesthetic then you should discuss this with your anesthetist as there are some rare inherited conditions that can cause serious reactions to anesthetic.
  • You should also make us aware of any dental work you have (such as plates or caps) and of any loose teeth.
  • If you smoke , please disclose it and it would be ideal to use this opportunity to quit. At the very least you should stop smoking prior to and in the first few weeks following your surgery.
  • If you’re diabetic -on insulin or taking any tablets.
  • If you have any food or drug allergy

What happens after my admission to Mercy Hospital?

Upon admission to St Annes ward at the MercyAscot Hospital, Epsom by 1400 the day before surgery- blood test will be drawn if necessary, chest x-ray and an ECG will also be taken. Please bring with you any relevant chest x-rays, scans and all your current medication. A nurse will admit you to the ward and show you around including where the Intensive Care Unit is. You will have an appropriate shave of any surgical sites and an antibacterial wash.

You will be seen by your surgeon who will sign the surgical consent form with you. The consent form will:

  •  Detail the operation
  • Document which side if relevant
  • Contain approval to draw off any necessary blood tests in the event of an accidental needle injury to staff
  • Enable you to request any relevant tissue to be returned to you after its pathological examination.

If you haven’t met the surgeon at their private Rooms prior to the surgery this is also where you can discuss the surgery and ask any questions you may have.

It’s a good time for family to also be introduced to your surgeon if they have not already met.

You will also meet with your anesthetist who will discuss the necessary aspects of anesthesia, including any risks and invite you to sign the anesthetic consent form. Usually this same anesthetist will be responsible for you if you are in either the intensive care or HDU unit following surgery. Where relevant you will also be introduced to your Perfusionist for the following day.

What happens after the heart surgery is done?

On your operation has been done, we will contact your designated family member or friend to inform them that the surgery has been completed, what procedure was performed and the reasons for any change along with a description of your general condition. We welcome family to visit you even if in intensive care and will update the family of any significant change in your condition. We welcome questions as we would prefer to have you and your family fully informed of your current status.

How long will I stay after my procedure?

A usual stay after any cardiac or lung surgery is up to 7 days. Your surgeon will visit often twice a day so there is plenty of opportunities to meet and talk with family. If you’re recovering well post-operatively, then your surgeon may discharge you as early as 2-3 days.

What happens at discharge?

When ready for discharge you will leave the Hospital with your x-rays, medication and a hand written discharge letter with a dictated letter being later provided to both your specialist and general practitioner. As a general rule of thumb we strongly recommend you see your general practitioner 1 – 2 days after discharge. This lets them catch up with the fact you have had recent surgery, your state at the time of discharge and any particular concerns during your admission and can form a reference for any necessary consults. There may well be stitches that need removing and there are always wounds that need review. Sweety will contact you regarding a follow up Clinic visit in our Rooms at an appropriate time frame of 4-6 weeks for heart and major lung surgery, earlier for more minor surgery. We normally recommend that you make your own arrangements to be reviewed by the doctor who originally referred you (cardiologist) for the procedure after you have been us, typically 6-8 weeks after surgery.

How do I look after my operation site/ wound?

All wounds go through several stages of healing, and you will be able to see these changes. It is normal to feel:

  • Tingling, numbness and itching sensations
  • A firm lump under the scar as new tissue forms (this can take six months or longer to resolve)
  • Slight pulling around the stitches or clips as the wound heals

We recommend that you shower rather than bath, unless your  surgeon or nurse advise otherwise. If your wound becomes painful, red or swollen, starts to ooze pus/blood or clear fluid, or you get a fever, consult your family doctor or surgeon straight away in case you have developed a wound infection. If you have clips, staples or non-dissolving stitches in your wound when you go home, these usually need to be removed by your surgeon/family doctor or as an outpatient 10-14 days after your operation. Dissolvable stitches are used under the skin and these can take some months to dissolve completely.

How soon can I drive after my surgery?

The time you can safely start driving depends largely on the type of operation/procedure you’ve had. The main concern is your ability to make an emergency stop.

Generally, you’re not allowed to drive for up to at least 4 weeks post-operatively, to protect your sternum stitches and allow it to heal faster. However, your surgeon will provide you with a clearance to drive once he feels comfortable with your recovery.

What if I’m feeling unwell after I get home?

If you’re not feeling well after discharge, you have three options:

  1. For more minor problems consult your general practitioner during practice hours. If you happen to do so, we welcome your doctor contacting us for advice or to tell us of any significant concerns. Most problems by definition are relatively minor and we can often allay concerns or recommend any tests needed to exclude more important problems.
  2. You are welcome to contact us directly – either via Sweety in the rooms or if necessary via the switchboard operator at Auckland City Hospital. If needed we can arrange either a review on the ward or sometimes it is more appropriate to be seen at Auckland City Hospital where a registrar may be available to at least perform an initial assessment.
  3. If you feel critically unwell or it is late at night you can always call an ambulance where you will usually be taken to the nearest public Hospital accident and emergency department. Many problems can be assessed easily by taking a blood pressure, ECG, blood tests and a chest x-ray. Again we would rather we are contacted and made aware of your predicament regardless of time or day.

Once again if you are having problems or concerns please get in touch with us and we can probably help and or reassure or take the necessary steps to get your recovery back on track.

Important phone numbers

Rooms –Sweety Mody           +649 6234443

Sweety (afterhours) +64 21 0770136

Auckland City Hospital          +649 3670000

St Annes Ward (direct)           +649 6235751

MercyAscot ICU(direct)        +649 6235724