Take Prescribed Medications When Discharged
You will probably be discharged home on different medications than you were on prior to surgery. It is important to
take the medications prescribed to you when you are discharged from the hospital.
Do Not Take Old Medications
You should call your doctor before restarting any old medications which includes:
- Herbal supplements
- Other over-the-counter medications
There could be interactions or side effects unknown to you.
Understand Your Medications
Please make sure you understand the following about all the medications you will be taking:
- Name of the medication
- Purpose of medication
- Dose (please double check if you need to take one pill, two pills, a half pill, etc.)
- How often it should be taken
- Side effects to watch for
Do Not Change or Stop Taking Medications
Please do not change your medication schedule or stop taking any of your medications without contacting your doctor. It is important to make an appointment with your primary care doctor and cardiologist in one to two weeks to discuss your new medication list.
Commonly Prescribed Medications After Heart Surgery
Your nurse will provide you with a medication list prior to discharge along with prescriptions for these medications. The list given to you will include the name of the medication, the times you should take it, and what the medication is used for. Here is a list of the most common medications prescribed after heart surgery and their side effects:
Metoprolol Tartrate (Lopressor)
Use: Metoprolol is a "beta blocker" that controls your blood pressure and heart rate.
Side effects: Metroprolol may cause you to feel lightheaded or lethargic. When you arise from a sitting or lying position, please rise slowly over several minutes.
Note: Toprol XL is another "beta blocker" that is frequently prescribed for patients at discharge. Metoprolol is a "beta blocker" that controls your blood pressure and heart rate.
Use: Furosemide is a diuretic or "water pill." It helps you to lose extra fluid that you are retaining. It is not unusual to gain as much as 20 pounds from fluid retention after heart surgery. This medication will help you to return to your preoperative weight.
Side effects: Furosemide will cause you to urinate frequently. You may be on this medication twice a day so you should take your second dose around 6 pm and no later to prevent from waking up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. Furosemide can also lower your blood pressure which can make you feel lightheaded. If this happens, notify your doctor. It is important to weigh yourself daily in the morning. If you notice a weight gain of greater than 2 pounds in one day or 5 pounds in one week, call your doctor.
Use: Potassium is an electrolyte for your heart. If you are on a "diuretic" medicine, such as Furosemide, you will lose excess fluid which can lead to a loss of potassium. This medication will supplement the lost potassium.
Side effects: Potassium is a large pill, and can cause nausea. Take potassium with food to avoid nausea.
Docusate Sodium (Colace)
Use: Colace is a stool softener.
Side effect: Colace can cause loose stool. If you are experiencing loose stool you may stop taking the medication until your stools are firm again. If your loose stool continues after stopping this medication for greater than three days, please call your doctor.
Use: Aspirin thins the blood by preventing platelets from becoming sticky and clumping together. Aspirin is sold over the counter in varying dosages. You will be instructed on what dosage you should take upon discharge.
Side effect: Aspirin can cause nausea. Please take with food to avoid this complication.
Use: Atrovastatin is a "statin". It is used to lower your cholesterol level.
Side effect: Atrovastatin can cause nausea. Please take with food to avoid this side effect. It can also cause muscle cramps and aches. If you are on this medication your doctor may follow your liver function tests (a blood test) periodically to watch for any abnormalities.
Note: There are many different medications your doctor may prescribe to lower your cholesterol level. This is an example of just one.
Use: Captopril is in a classification of medications called "ace inhibitors." This medication is used to lower your blood pressure. It can also be given to patients after a heart attack or if you suffer from congestive heart failure.
Side effects: Captopril may make you feel lightheaded or lethargic. When you arise from a sitting or lying position please do so slowly. If lightheadedness persists this may mean your blood pressure is too low and call your doctor. The most common long term side effect of captopril may be a dry cough. If you are on Captopril, your doctor may order a blood test periodically to check your kidney function for any abnormalities.
Note: Lisinopril is another ace inhibitor frequently prescribed at discharge.
Use: Coumadin is a medication that causes the blood to clot more slowly. It is sometimes called a "blood thinner." If you had a mechanical valve replacement you will be taking coumadin for the rest of your life. Some people may also need Coumadin due to an irregular heart beat.
Coumadin dosages are based on a blood test called an INR. You will need to have this blood test done on a regular basis to ensure you are on the proper dose. This blood test is especially important when you first go home. It may take several weeks for your doctor or nurse to determine the right dose for you. Your blood will be tested many times during the first weeks to help with this decision. After that, your doctor or nurse will tell you how often you must have your INR drawn.
Coumadin is a very slow acting medication. The dose you take today will not be reflected in your lab test for almost 48 hours. This is why your blood will be checked frequently to ensure your blood is not too thin or not thin enough. After your blood is tested and the results reviewed, your doctor will contact you to tell you what dose you should take. The dose may change often in the first few weeks after surgery. Your doctor will also tell you when your next lab draw will need to be done. You should hear from your doctor or nurse within 24 hours of your lab draw. If you do not, please contact them. When you are discharged from the hospital, you will be given prescriptions of varying milligram strengths of Coumadin in order to make it easier for you to adapt to your changing medication dose.
Side effects: The most important side effect of coumadin is bleeding. While on Coumadin, you must be careful not to cut or injure yourself. Be careful when shaving (an electric shaver is recommended). If you do cut yourself, press hard on the injured area for a few minutes. If the bleeding does not stop or if you have spontaneous bleeding from your nose or any other area on your body, please seek immediate medical attention. If you experience a serious fall or hit your head, even if you don't feel injured, notify your doctor.
Note: Coumadin has many food and other medication interactions which can lower or increase its effectiveness (see your discharge booklet). Please notify your dentist or doctor that you are on Coumadin before undergoing any procedure due to the risk of bleeding. If you are discharged on Coumadin, you will be given extensive teaching about this medication, possible interactions, and side effects.
Use: Amiodarone is a medication to prevent or reverse arrythmias (an irregular heartbeat). Side Effects: Do not stop using this medication suddenly without asking your doctor. You may need to slowly decrease your dose before stopping it completely. This medication can also make you more sensitive to the sunlight. Use sunscreen when outdoors. Your doctor will need to check your progress at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments. You may need to have regular blood tests or eye exams while on this medications.