How Do I Get Dressed While Taking Sternal Precautions
Here are a few tips to make dressing during recovery from a sternotomy easier:
- Choose clothing that is easy to put on and take off.
- Sit down while getting dressed.
- To put on a shirt, put your hands through the sleeves up to your elbows. Next, keeping your arms tucked close to your sides, lift your arms up gently until you can duck your head to pull the neck of the shirt over your head.
- To pull on pants, start while seated. Put your feet into the pant legs, then stand and pull the waistband up bit by bit, with your elbows slightly bent to each side, until you reach your waist.
- Always remember to keep your arms close to your sides and never pull on your incision.
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Your Personality And Mood May Change After Open
After open-heart surgery, many people experience personality and mood changes. The most commonly experienced emotions are depression, fatigue and anxiety. These can be caused by being on bypass, anesthesia, or medication such as oxycontin. You may experience mood swings like crying or getting angry or easily frustrated.
I mostly experienced this after my second open heart surgery when I was a teenager and my third open-heart surgery. After both of them, I experienced depression, anxiety and PTSD. Before my second open heart surgery, I was more outgoing but afterward, my personality changed and I was quieter and self-reflective. I struggled with suicidal thoughts and mood swings. After my most recent surgery, I finally got the therapy I needed after years of not seeking help. If you are struggling, please find help, be open with your doctor and make sure you have someone to talk to.
The Ultimate Guide For Open Heart Surgery Patients
Your practical guide to a smooth recovery after heart surgery.
The following advice is for guidance only.
Reading time: 35 min.
Returning to daily day life after heart surgery can seem overwhelming. Your journey to recovery will be easier when you know what to expect during the healing period and when you have the right tools to assist you.
Plan for a stress-free recovery without complications by making preparations before your surgery and learn what you need to do and have ready when returning home. Read on
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Care Of Your Incisions
As you heal, your incision will look better and the soreness will go away. Changes in the weather, too much or too little activity and sleeping in one position too long may cause increased soreness. You may also feel numbness or itching or see redness or swelling, which will also stop with time. To care for your incisions, we suggest:
- Wash gently with mild soap during your daily shower. Dry carefully with a towel. Pat it dry Do not rub the incision.
- If you have small pieces of white tape over your incision, you must remove them after you have been home for seven days. If the strips come off on their own, you may leave them off.
- If your incisions are puffy, have areas of redness, are oozing, or begin to open slightly, call your surgeon.
- Women should wear a bra. A good support bra will reduce the tension placed on the incision. If the bra bothers you, you may put a small piece of gauze under the bra for added comfort.
- For discomfort or soreness, you may use a heating pad. Apply it four or five times per day on the low setting for about 20 minutes each time. If needed, take pain medication prescribed by your doctor.
Wearing Certain Types Of Clothing Might Be Hard During Surgery Recovery
Usually in discharge, they tell you to wear button-down clothing for a while, but what they dont tell you is that your skin is super sensitive and wearing tight clothing even a couple of months after might be hard. For women, wearing bras might be tough. Try to find comfortable sports bras you can unclasp or undershirts. I tend to wear bras now that dont have underwires and have a t-shirt cotton feel.
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Your Eating Habits May Change
You may notice that youve lost your appetite or you just feel too tired to eat. This is common, so be patient. Your appetite will soon be back to normal.
We suggest you try eating frequent, small meals throughout the day. You need proper nutrition to enable your body to heal and get stronger.
We recommend a diet low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and high in protein. Good sources of protein include fish, eggs, dairy, beans and nuts. Limit the amount of salt in your diet to 2,000 milligrams a day. Foods known to be high in salt include restaurant food, soups, pizza, bacon and other processed meats.
What About Traveling By Car
The risk of developing DVT comes from lack of movement, whether youre traveling by air, rail, or road. Youre also at an increased risk for DVT if you go home and spend too much time in bed.
You can lower your risk for DVT by moving your legs whenever possible. If youre traveling by car, plan to stop and stretch your legs every hour. Once youre home, avoid sitting for more than 4 hours at a time.
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Driving After A Heart Attack And A Stent
If you had a heart attack and a stent at the same time, you should not drive for at least two weeks. If you have a stent put in without having had a heart attack, NZTA guidelines state you should wait at least two days before driving again.
Different rules apply for Class 2, 3, 4 or 5 licence and/or a P, V, I or O endorsement.
Hormonal Changes Can Occur After Heart Surgery
For women, your period can be affected by the surgery. It can temporally or even in cases permanently changed. Your periods can become irregular, heavy, lighter, or more painful. Whenever Im in the hospital for some reason my body just automatically decides its going to have my period even though its not that time.
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New Air Travel Checklist For Heart Patients
People With Heart Disease Urged to Take Precautions Before Flying
Researchers say the guidelines for safe air travel among people with heart disease vary and are supported by little concrete information. But a review of the available research shows people with heart disease can reduce their risk of complications onboard by following a few simple steps.
Although the risk of angina, heart attack, and irregular heartbeat or other major complications is small among people with stable heart disease, researchers say heart-related problems account for a high percentage of all in-flight medical emergencies. They also say that certain groups may be at an increased risk for in-flight heart-related incidents. Those concerns prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration earlier this year to mandate that an automated external defibrillator be placed onboard all passenger-carrying aircraft with a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds.
Sleeping Can Be Hard After Surgery
Its hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in. If you are a side or belly sleeper it can be hard laying on your back. Finding your favorite chest pillow will be your savior. You might also experience nightmares for a bit after surgery, but it will pass. If you continue to experience them, speak to your doctor and seek help if you feel like you are experiencing PTSD.
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The First 3 Months After Surgery
During the first 3 months after open heart surgery, it is safe to do easy chores around the house and yard, such as:
- folding clothes
- pruning flowers
Social activities, such as going to the movies and restaurants, are also safe as long as they do not involve a lot of physical effort.
A person should aim to some walking every day. Start with a short distance and try to walk up, little by little. Walking supports blood circulation and helps to reduce the risk of pneumonia and constipation.
It is also safe to use an indoor stationary bicycle at this stage, but only at a gentle pace.
A person can probably return to work after 13 months. However, this will depend on the type of work they do and how physically demanding it is.
To help manage pain, a person can sleep on their back. If they need to cough or take a deep breath, it can help to hold a pillow over the wound to support the sternum.
A person should ask their doctor when it will be safe for them to drive again.
Exact Answer: 6 Weeks
This is why the surgical procedure is also called coronary artery bypass surgery. The surgery is done by making an incision in the chest of the patient. During the process, the doctors keep a machine that helps the patients blood flowing throughout his body. The rib cage is cut open so that the doctor can perform the surgery.
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What To Avoid For Sternum Healing
For the first 6 weeks after surgery, a person should avoid lifting anything that causes them to strain. This could be a heavy grocery bag, briefcase, backpack, a pet, or a child.
Activities to avoid for the first 3 months after surgery, or until a doctor says it is safe to continue, include:
- household activities that strain the chest or upper arm muscles, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming, and mopping the floor
- sports such as tennis, golf, cycling, weight lifting, running, and vigorous aerobics
- pulling the body up using the arms, such as getting into a high truck or SUV
People heal at different rates depending on a range of different factors, including their underlying state of health and their age.
A small 2019 observational study examined rates of sternal healing at midterm followup after open heart surgery. Midterm followup occurred between 13 and 21 months after surgery. At this point, the researchers found that the sternums of 65.9% of the people had healed. They also found that younger people healed faster.
Additionally, an older 2015 study assessed the CT scans of 197 people recovering from coronary artery bypass graft surgery. The researchers found that it takes at least 3 months for the sternum to heal completely. The sternums of almost all of the people involved in the study were completely healed 24 years after surgery.
Six To 10 Weeks After Surgery
If you had open heart surgery and your surgeon divided your sternum, it will be about 80% healed after six to eight weeks. By that time, youll generally be strong enough to get back to normal activities, such as driving, Dr. Tong says. You can probably also return to work, unless your job is physically strenuous.
Most importantly, this is the time to start a cardiac rehabilitation program. This is a monitored exercise program designed to increase your hearts endurance. Through cardiac rehabilitation, you can gradually increase your activities, and your doctors will watch your progress closely. Youll also learn more about how you can change your lifestyle and diet to keep your heart healthy.
Working through a cardiac rehabilitation program is the best way to find out when youre strong enough to resume the more strenuous activities you enjoy.
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What Should I Expect During Recovery At Home After Heart Surgery
The first six to eight weeks after heart surgery are usually the most challenging. You may recover quite quickly if you were in good health before your operation. However, your recovery may be slower if you were very ill before surgery or if you experienced any complications after surgery.
Remember that you should see slow steady improvement as you recover. Call your family doctor if you have or develop any condition that seems to get steadily worse over three days.
Managing follow-up appointments
What kind of follow-up appointments will I need after my heart surgery?
Once you are home from the hospital after your heart surgery, please arrange the following appointments:
- Within the first week you are at home, call to make an appointment to see your family doctor to have your sutures or clips removed. Remember to bring the removal kit you were provided with before you left the hospital.
- Your heart surgeon may see you two to three months after your surgery for a follow-up appointment. Please refer to your personal discharge documents for details. Call 604-522-6800 to arrange this appointment.
- You should also expect a call from a cardiac rehabilitation program. Referrals are made automatically when you are discharged and you do not need to initiate this call yourself.
Make an appointment with your family doctor if your incision continues to drain and/or you note any signs of infection.
When will my incision heal into a scar and how do I care for it?
How Long Does Open Heart Surgery Last
The duration of the open heart surgery depends on the actual procedure that is being performed. On average, the duration of this kind of surgery is around three or four hours. Besides the actual procedure, at least one hour before and one hour after the surgery will be necessary. The hour before will be used in order to prep the surgical field, administer the anesthesia and other things like that. The hour after the surgery is necessary for post-operative initial care. The duration of the surgery might increase if there are complications with the surgery.
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You May Experience Memory Loss And/or Brain Fog
There are a couple of things that can cause memory loss and brain fog after open-heart surgery. If you were put on bypass, it can cause these issues. It is also called pump head. Post-operative cognitive dysfunction can also cause memory loss. Both of these are usually short-term but can have the possibility of long-term effects. For the first six months, I really struggled with memory loss and brain fog. As time went on, it started to get better and I started to regain my memory and wasnt so foggy-headed.
How Long After Open Heart Surgery Can You Be Left Alone
It is necessary to care for oneself on a regular basis. It is usually best to have someone stay with you at home for at least the first 1 to 2 weeks following surgery. Learn how to test your pulse on a regular basis. You will need 4 to 6 weeks to fully recover from the breathing exercises you learned in the hospital.
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How Long Does Heart Bypass Surgery Recovery Usually Take
After CABG, most people stay in the hospital for 5 to 7 days. While youre there, you can expect the following:
You will probably be on a ventilator, or breathing machine. In most cases, the ventilator can be removed after a few hours.
You will also have little patches with wires attached to your chest that allow your medical team to monitor your heart rate and rhythm.
You will have tubes coming out of your chest, which drain fluid and help your lungs recover.
You will have several other smaller tubes that go into your blood vessels. Medications are given through intravenous catheters. Others are used to monitor your blood pressure and heart function.
The surgeon has to cut through the breastbone, or sternum, to get to your heart. So, you will have a bandage or dressing down the center of your chest to keep that area clean and protected.
Over the next few days, as you recover, those tubes will gradually be removed. And even while you have those tubes in place, your care team, including nurses and therapists, will get you out of bed as soon as it is safe. Moving around helps your breathing, blood flow, and strength. Although this sounds uncomfortable, medication will help to ease the process.
When you leave the hospital, you will likely go home. But if you are very weak or need extra help, you may go to a rehabilitation hospital for a few weeks. There you can rebuild your strength and make sure youre ready to resume daily activities.
Patient Realities About Open Heart Surgery Recovery Time
In creating this website and writing my book, I decided to find out if I was alone in these thoughts. That said, I ran an extensive survey. I asked hundreds patients about their recovery experience.
As I learned during this research, most heart valve surgery patients surveyed suggested that heart valve surgery recovery was more difficult than expected. The patients surveyed also suggested that their cardiologists and surgeons could have better prepared them for their recovery.
My research suggested that the recovery time from heart surgery has a significant range. When answering the question, How long did it take you to return to work?, some patients stated they felt recovered in 2 to 3 weeks. Others responsed that it took over 15 weeks to recover from heart surgery.
I also wanted to get surgeon feedback. So, at the Heart Valve Summit, I filmed this interview with Dr. David Adams, the Surgeon-in-Chief at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, New York. It was interesting to hear Dr. Adams research and clinical experience as he has treated thousands of patients during his 20+ year career.
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