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?
After Your Surgery You May Feel
- You may have a sore throat and hoarseness from the breathing tube that was in place during your surgery.
- You may feel tired from the medications you were given.
- You may have some bruising and tenderness in the area of your operation.
- You will continue to get pain medication through your intravenous catheter in your arm. The IV stays in for approximately 2 to 3 days.
- Medications may cause temporary delirium. You may have restraints on your arms if you are at risk of harming your care.
Most patients admit they do not remember the first few days after surgery.
Remember To Move Carefully
- Rapid change of position may be accompanied by dizziness if done to quickly.
- Rest whenever you get tired.
- Rest between activities. If you need to rest for more than one hour after an activity, you may be pushing yourself too hard. Do a little less the next day.
- Avoid placing undue strain on your chest region by sitting in one position for long periods of time.
- When sitting or standing, use your leg musclesdo not use your arms to lower or raise yourself from your chair.
- Do not cross your legsit interferes with blood flow.
Recommended Reading: Female Heart Attack Sumptoms
Do You Need A Grab Bar In A Bathroom
You may need to have safety bars, or grab bars, in your bathroom: Grab bars should be secured vertically or horizontally to the wall, not diagonally. Install grab bars to help you get in and out of the tub. Install grab bars to help you sit down and get up from the toilet. DO NOT use towel racks as grab bars.
Give Their Body What It Needs To Heal
Your body has gone through something very major, and it needs time to heal. It is normal to feel exhausted while recovering from surgery and conversely its also normal to experience insomnia! Know that the body is hard at work healing from the ordeal of surgery and that the discomfort, pain, and all-around disruption will require some patience and time to overcome.
After open-heart surgery, the patient may not feel like eating much at all, and if you are a caregiver this can be disconcerting. But their appetite will recover right along with the patient, and there are some things you can do in the meantime to give their body the nutrients it needs. Focus on eating small meals throughout the day instead of two or three heavy ones. Limit salt and fat intake by steering clear of restaurants, take-out, or frozen meals
Every area of ones life is impacted before, during, and after major surgery, so its normal to experience moodiness, anxiety, depression, fear, or anger as you heal. While you are allowing yourself this time to heal and nurture your body, its also important to allow yourself the time and attention you need to recover psychologically as well.
Recommended Reading: New Device For Congestive Heart Failure
How To Prepare Your Home After Open Heart Surgery
Recovery at Home After Your Heart Surgery
You May Experience Sleep Issues
Many people complain of having trouble sleeping for some time after heart surgery. You may experience insomnia because of:
Effects of anesthesia
Changes in your daily routine
Stress from personal concerns
Normal sleeping patterns typically return in two to three weeks. Until then, try these tips:
Take enough rest breaks in between your normal daily activities but avoid a daytime nap longer than 20 minutes.
If you have pain, take your pain medication about 30 minutes before bedtime.
Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position and decrease muscle strain.
If you feel anxious or nervous, talk to your spouse, partner or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
Avoid caffeine in the evenings.
Listen to relaxing music or a guided imagery audio program.
Ask your partner to give you a back rub.
Take a relaxing shower.
Follow a bedtime routine to let your body know its time to relax and get to sleep.
Its OK to sleep on your back, side or stomach. You will not hurt your incisions.
Recommended Reading: Can Low Vitamin D Cause Heart Palpitations
How To Prepare For Open Heart Surgery
Its only natural to have questions and concerns if you are scheduled for open-heart surgery. Open-heart surgery is used to treat various heart issues, including arrhythmias and aneurysms. The most common type of heart surgery is coronary artery bypass grafting , which improves blood flow in people with severe coronary heart disease.
What to Expect Leading up to Surgery
In the days before your surgery, its essential to make a list of any medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and prescriptions. You should also note any recent illnesses such as a cold, fever, or the flu. This will allow your surgeon to determine the best course of care during and after surgery. You may also be advised to make specific lifestyle changes, such as implementing a healthier diet.
Knowing what to expect before and during surgery can help to relieve any feelings of anxiety or uncertainty you may be experiencing. Depending on the reasons for surgery, preparation may include:
Making Arrangements for Post-Surgery Care
After open-heart surgery, your doctor will also give you a series of aftercare instructions that you must adhere to, including directions for proper wound care. Additionally, they will prescribe pain medications to control any side effects and guide you on increasing your physical activity levels. For a month or so after surgery, you will be unable to drive. A loved one or home care aide can help make this challenging time more manageable.
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.
Read Also: How Long To Recover From Heart Attack
Will I Need To Hire Someone To Help Me
Surgery can be a big deal. Sometimes it can sap your energy for days or weeks afterward. You may need some help from your family or a health care professional.
Make arrangements in advance if your surgeon suggests getting a nurse, physical therapist, or health aide. You can get recommendations from your friends, doctor, hospitalâs home care department, or insurance company. Make sure you schedule the first visit before you leave the hospital.
Movies Music And Books
Let’s face it, recovering from surgery can be really boring. There is a tremendous amount of sitting down, quietly resting, and avoiding pain, while you would rather be doing many other things. Is there a movie you’ve been wanting to see? A book that you bought that you just never quite found the time to read?
In the days leading up to your surgery, stock up on your favorite entertainment, whether it be crossword puzzles, video games, books, or even the supplies to knit.
Read Also: What Causes Afib After Heart Surgery
How To Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis
Remove elastic compression stockings, used to prevent blood clots called deep vein thrombosis from forming, at bedtime if advised to do so in your discharge instructions. Less napping. As you regain strength and recover, limiting naps or rests during the day can help create a better sleep routine at night.
Why Do People Wear Pajamas After Surgery
There is a reason that you see people wandering around hospitals in pajamasthey are comfortable. Loose clothing can be a godsend after surgery, especially if your surgery was performed on your abdomen, lower back, or pelvis. No one wants a waistband that rubs against a fresh and often very sensitive incision.
Also Check: What Is Considered Heart Disease
Showering And Incision Care
You may shower if your surgeon has approved this prior to discharge. Your incisions may itch or feel sore, tight or numb for a few weeks. Some bruising around the incisions is also normal.
- Use warm water.
- You may wash your incisions gently with soap and water, but do not scrub them.
- Pat your incisions dry.
- Do not take baths or use powders or lotions near the incisions.
You may have white pieces of tape on your chest. These are called “steri strips”. They will gradually fall off. If they have not fallen off in 7 days, gently wash your chest with soap and water and gently peel them off. You may have some bleeding if the strips pulled off any scabs.
If you find it more comfortable, a thin layer of gauze may be placed over the incision. Women may wish to place cotton or soft material between the bra and chest wall.
- Your skin is sealed within 24-48 hours after surgery.
- You may itch or feel sore, tight or numb for a few weeks. Some bruising around the incision is also normal.
- Avoid sun exposure for the first year
- Chest tube drainage Within the first week after surgery, fluid may leak out from your chest tube sites. You may cover the sites with sterile bandages. Call your surgeon’s office if have to change the bandages more than once/day.
Signs of Possible Infection
- Increased swelling/tenderness along incision line
- Persistent high fever
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.
Recommended Reading: How Many Heart Attacks Did Dick Cheney Have
How Long Does It Take For A Heart To Heal
After heart surgery, your body must heal for several weeks. The best way to regain your normal activities at home is to use a slow, progressive plan. Over time you should be able to do routine household tasks, take part in recreational activity, and return to work. Get up and get dressed each morning. Dont stay in bed.
When To Call Your Doctor
If you develop any signs of infection , let your follow-up care team know as soon as possible. Also let them know if you experience any of the following:
- Weight gain of 3 pounds or more in a two- to four-day period.
- Leg swelling that gets worse or that doesnt improve with elevation.
- Shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness that isnt relieved by medication.
All of these symptoms can be signs of congestive heart failure and require immediate attention.
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Heart Palpitations
Be Patient With Your Recovery
You should receive discharge instructions from your doctor when you leave the hospital, but it helps to be mentally prepared for a recovery time of several weeks or months, notes WebMD. This may vary depending on your health prior to the surgery, any complications that happened while in the hospital, and your motivation to follow instructions when you get home.
When Can I Get Back To My Normal Activities
Everyone wants to return to a regular routine as soon as possible. Some things you’re probably wondering about:
Driving. You can’t get behind the wheel for at least 24 hours after surgery. You have to wait until the anesthesia, which kept you pain-free during your operation, fully wears off.
After some types of surgery, you’ll need to hold off on driving until your recovery is well underway.
“It’s not the inability to drive. It’s the inability to react if you need to react quickly,” Greene says. “If you had a and pain of any kind in the abdomen, you can’t push on the brake.”
Travel. If you had some types of surgery, such as an operation on your eye, your doctor may warn you against flying. The change in air pressure could be harmful.
Sex. You may be able to enjoy your love life soon after surgery, but it depends on the kind of operation you had. For example, if you had a hernia repair or a major procedure in your pelvic area, you might need to wait for 2 to 3 weeks. Find out from your doctor when it’s safe to have sex again.
Work. Ask your doctor when you can go back to your job. After you return, though, you still need to be careful.
“I would recommend not sitting for prolonged periods of time,” Greene says. “You want to get up and walk around.” It helps cut your risk of getting blood clots after surgery.
Don’t Miss: Does Drinking Raise Your Heart Rate
Deep Breathing And Coughing
Breathing deeply gets air down to the bottom of the lungs. It helps clear mucus to prevent you from getting a lung infection. Breathe in deeply through your nose until your lungs feel full of air. Hold the air in your lungs for 2 to 3 seconds, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth. Repeat 10 times.
After your breathing exercises, hug your chest and have tissues ready. Take a deep breath in followed by a strong cough. Repeat this two times. Coughing may be uncomfortable, but it will not cause any damage to the breastbone.
Practice deep breathing and coughing every hour you are awake.
What Complications Do I Need To Look For
Sometimes you can have a setback after an operation. If you spot trouble early, though, you can help avoid some serious problems. Be on the lookout for these warning signs:
- Pain that gets worse over time
- Pain when you pee
- Nausea and vomiting that don’t go away
- Racing heartbeat
Your recovery will go quicker than you think. If you’ve done your homework and made plans in advance, you can look forward to a quick and safe return to your regular routine.
Also Check: What Causes Increased Heart Rate
Youll Play A Key Role In Managing Your Pain
Post-surgical pain is unavoidable but can be managed in a variety of ways. Because of recent national legislation changes, physicians can prescribe no more than a seven-day supply of opioids to patients at the time of their hospital discharge.
Weaning yourself off opioids as soon as possible is important. You may need less than a seven-day supply, depending on your condition. Some patients do not require any opioids for pain management.
Other options for pain management include:
Oral and topical analgesics such as acetaminophen and Salonpas patches
Applying a warm cloth to the area, using caution near the incision because nerve sensitivity may be decreased, causing the skin to burn
Relaxation techniques such as meditation and guided imagery
If you are on long-term opioids, you should meet with your prescribing physician to begin to wean down to the lowest dose possible before surgery.
You May Feel Like Youre On An Emotional Roller Coaster
Recovering from open-heart surgery involves physical and emotional healing. The recovery process uses emotional and physical energy.
If you feel upset or emotional in the weeks after your operation, dont worry this is a normal reaction. Many patients report these feelings up to three months after the operation:
Mood swings that may include depression, fear, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness and anger
Crying easily for no apparent reason
Lack of energy or motivation
Getting easily frustrated
Having good days and bad days
Feeling more emotional or sentimental than normal
Even though you may feel drained physically and emotionally, its important to follow guidelines for good self-care:
Get dressed every day
Walk daily within your limits
Get plenty of rest
Don’t Miss: What Is A Rapid Heart Rate
How To Get Well Wishes
Pace yourself by spreading essential tasks evenly throughout the day and asking yourself if it needs to be done at all. It is quite likely that you will have lots of well wishers when you first arrive home. Try and limit the number of visitors in the first few days as you can become tired very quickly.