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Open Heart Surgery Recovery Time

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Here’s What To Expect Once You’re Home From The Hospital

Going Home Recovery after Open Heart Surgery | Heart Care Video Series

Every day, thousands of people in the United States undergo open-heart surgery. This major operation leaves them with a long chest incision and a lengthy recovery. The time it takes to fully heal will depend on the person’s age and overall health and the complexity of the operation.

The most common is coronary artery bypass grafting, which uses a blood vessel taken from another part of the body to bypass a blocked heart artery. Open-heart surgery is also done to repair or replace a faulty heart valve or to repair damaged or abnormal areas of the heart.

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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.

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Open Heart Surgery Recovery Time

In my opinion, the recovery time from heart valve repair and heart valve replacement surgery needs much, much, much more attention and patient education.

“Why does Adam say that?” you might be wondering.

Well… Leading up to my open heart surgery, much of the focus was strictly on the surgical process of replacing my diseased heart valve.

The key questions raised during this time were:

  • “Which surgical option should I chose?”
  • “What type of valve replacement should I select?”
  • “Who will be my surgeon?”
  • “Where will the surgery take place?”
  • “How much will the surgery cost?”

Needless to say, these are all incredibly important questions.

Yet, as I look back on it, neither my cardiologist or surgeon sat me down to discuss open heart surgery recovery time.

It is true that I received some coaching on the “do’s and don’ts” of heart valve surgery recovery. I receiving a ten-page handout upon hospital discharge. However, I never received a detailed, comprehensive set of verbal or written instructions to accelerate or appropriately pace my open heart surgery recovery time.

As a result, my recovery was filled with many unexpected challenges and pitfalls. To some extent, my recovery turned into a rollercoaster – with multiple “ups” and “downs”. Some of the issues I faced included cardiac depression, sternum pain and Vicodin addiction.

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Third Factor That Influences Recovery Time Following A Heart Bypass Operation

What kind of family support system that faces the patient, once discharged from the hospital, will affect recovery time.

If theres no support system, the patient may end up spending a few weeks in a skilled nursing facility for cardiac rehab eating meals in a dining room full of strangers, sleeping in a room that isnt theirs, etc. Its not home.

But they must stay there because they live alone and theres no relatives to stay with them, nor friends to help them out.

If a patient goes straight home to a welcoming, eager-to-help family, this will speed recovery.

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What Conditions Are Treated With Heart Surgery

25 Elegant Open Heart Surgery Recovery Time

Heart surgery treats a range of conditions that affect your heart and the blood vessels connected to your heart.


An aneurysm is a bulge in your artery wall or heart muscle. One type of aneurysm is an aortic aneurysm. This occurs in your aorta, which is the large artery that carries blood out of your heart to the rest of your body. Aortic aneurysms may form in your belly . Less often, they form in your chest .

Aneurysms can also form in your heart muscle, usually in your left ventricle. This is the chamber of your heart responsible for pumping blood through your aorta.


An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat. Your heart might beat too fast or too slow . Or, your heart may have an irregular rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular rhythm.

Over time, an arrhythmia can weaken your heart and lead to serious problems.

Congenital heart disease

Some congenital heart defects need to be repaired soon after birth. Other defects may not show symptoms right away. So, congenital heart disease can affect adults who never knew they had a problem. This often happens with atrial septal defects, which may not show symptoms until middle age.

Coronary artery disease

CAD may cause no symptoms. In some cases, it causes chest pain . If untreated, CAD can lead to a heart attack.

CAD is the most common form of heart disease, affecting about 18 million adults in the U.S.

Heart failure

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Recovery After Mitral Valve Surgery: What To Expect

Mitral valve surgery addresses defects in the valve that regulates blood flow in the upper and lower chambers on the left side of your heart. How long it takes you to recover depends on several factors, including what kind of mitral valve procedure you have and your general health.

Heres what to know about recovery from mitral valve surgery, which can reduce the chance of heart failure or as well as other serious complications, and restore your energy and ability to go about your daily life.

How Long Can You Live After Heart Surgery

You can live for many years or decades after heart surgery. Many factors affect how long you live, including other health conditions and risk factors. Heart surgery can make you healthier and stronger. But its important to keep doing whatever you can to lower your risks for future problems. Things you can do include:

  • Make lifestyle changes recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Take your medications as prescribed.
  • Keep all your medical appointments and follow-ups.

Heart surgery is like a bicycle that can carry you down a long road when youre tired of walking, but you still have to push the pedals.

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What Happens During Open

Heart surgery is complex. Some surgeries may take six hours or longer. You will receive anesthesia and be asleep during the procedure.

Surgery steps vary depending on the heart condition and procedure. In general, your surgeon:

  • Makes a 6- to 8-inch long incision down the middle of your chest.
  • Cuts the breastbone and spreads your ribcage apart to reach your heart.
  • Connects the heart to a heart-lung bypass machine, if youll have an on-pump surgery. An anesthesiologist gives IV medication to stop your heart from beating and monitors you during the surgery.
  • Repairs your heart.
  • Restores blood flow to your heart. Usually, your heart starts beating on its own. Sometimes, the heart needs a mild electrical shock to restart it.
  • Disconnects the heart-lung bypass machine.
  • Closes the breastbone or other incision with wires or sutures that remain in your body.
  • Uses stitches to close the skin incision.

You May Feel Like Youre On An Emotional Roller Coaster

Recovering from Open Heart Surgery

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

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The St Pauls Rehabilitation Experience

Located conveniently near you, St. Pauls Senior Community offers comprehensive senior rehabilitation services to provide support for you and your loved one through any upcoming medical procedures, injury recovery, or other health concerns. We know youre likely to have questions, and wed be happy to answer them for you. To get more information, please contact us. Our team is ready to help!

Six Weeks To Three Months

After six weeks, youll be largely recovered and youll then be able to resume heavier housework and gardening, business or recreational travel, aerobic exercises without weights, driving, and dog walking.

The expectation, more or less, is that you can start moving towards pre-operation levels of activity. That said, dont push it and seek out your healthcare providers clearance if you want to try anything more strenuous or new.

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How To Prepare For Open

Tell your doctor about any drugs you are taking, even over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbs. Inform them of any illnesses you have, including herpes outbreak, cold, flu, or fever.

In the two weeks before the surgery, your doctor may ask you to quit smoking and stop taking blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

Its important to talk to your doctor about your alcohol consumption before you prepare for the surgery. If you typically have three or more drinks a day and stop right before you go into surgery, you may go into alcohol withdrawal. This may cause life-threatening complications after open-heart surgery, including seizures or tremors. Your doctor can help you with alcohol withdrawal to reduce the likelihood of these complications.

The day before the surgery, you may be asked to wash yourself with a special soap. This soap is used to kill bacteria on your skin and will lessen the chance of an infection after surgery. You may also be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight.

Your healthcare provider will give you more detailed instructions when you arrive at the hospital for surgery.

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Wearing Certain Types Of Clothing Might Be Hard During Surgery Recovery

Favorite stretches for open heart surgery patients

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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When To Seek Medical Advice

Follow any advice that you have been given on discharge from hospital.

See a GP if you have:

  • worsening pain in or around the wound
  • redness and swelling around the wound
  • pus or blood coming from the wound
  • a very high temperature or you feel hot and shivery

Call NHS 111 or contact your local out-of-hours service if youâre unable to contact your GP.

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Preparing For The Surgery

Preparation for open heart surgery starts the night before. A person should eat an evening meal as usual but must not consume any food or drink after midnight.

It is a good idea to wear loose, comfortable clothing to assist with restricted movement following surgery, but wear whatever is comfortable.

Be sure to have all personal medical information on hand. This might include a list of medications, recent illness, and insurance information.

It is normal to feel anxious before an anesthetic, and people should not hesitate to seek reassurance from the healthcare team.

The doctor may request that the person washes their upper body with antibacterial soap. A member of the healthcare team may need to shave the persons chest area before they can have the anesthetic.

The doctors may also need to run tests before surgery, such as monitoring the heart or taking blood samples. A doctor or nurse might place a line into a vein to enable the delivery of fluids.

After the medical team has completed the preliminary tasks, the anesthesiologist will administer general anesthesia.

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What To Expect After Cardiac Ablation Surgery

You will be monitored for 2-6 hours after the procedure to check bleeding and vitals, including heart rate and blood pressure.

Most people go home the same day of the procedure. Others may need to stay in the hospital for 1-2 days, depending on their overall health status.

  • Pulmonary vein stenosis
  • Radiation exposure

Very rarely, the surgery may lead to death, although the chances of dying from cardiac ablation surgery are extremely low.

What Happens Before Heart Surgery

WATCH Triple Bypass Open Heart Surgery

Preparation for your surgery can take weeks or months. Before your heart surgery is scheduled, your medical care team will evaluate your condition. Your care team will likely include your primary care doctor and cardiologist. Youll also consult with a cardiothoracic surgeon .

Your care team will give you a medical evaluation. This includes:

  • Talking about your symptoms and how long theyve been going on.
  • Talking about your medical history and your biological familys medical history.
  • Blood tests to check your cholesterol and other important numbers.

Your team will also run some diagnostic tests. These tests provide a detailed picture of your heart function and any problems. They also help you and your care team decide if you need surgery and what type you need.

If you need surgery, your care team will tell you exactly how to prepare and what to expect. Its important to follow their recommendations about:

  • When to stop taking any medications.
  • When to begin fasting the day before your surgery.
  • Quitting smoking or tobacco use and reducing alcohol consumption to lower your risk of complications.

Be sure to ask any questions you have, even if they seem small or you think you asked them already. Its better to double-check to make sure youre as prepared as possible for your surgery.

What to expect after youre admitted to the hospital

  • Tests like an EKG or chest X-ray.
  • Hair shaved from the spot where youll have your incision.
  • Glasses and contact lenses.

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What Are The Most Common Heart Surgeries

Coronary artery bypass grafting is the most common heart surgery. In 2018, about 200,000 CABG procedures were performed in the U.S.

The second most common heart surgery is valve replacement and repair. About 110,000 valve surgeries were performed in the U.S. in 2018. This number doesnt include endovascular repair methods, which dont require open surgery.

Cardiac Rehabilitation During Bypass Surgery Recovery Period

The bypass surgery recovery period may include Cardiac Rehabilitation program if only prescribed by your physician. One can start off with his or her cardiac rehab while one is still in the hospital and continue it after getting discharged. What is cardiac rehab? Cardiac rehab is a type of exercise program that will help you increase the level of your physical activity under the supervision of professional who have exceled in it. The cardiac rehab management during bypass surgery recovery period also has dieticians, therapists, psychologists, and other health care providers who are going to aid you in bypass surgery recovery period. The whole cardiac rehab program will make you feel confident about adopting a healthy lifestyle.

  • Quality of life.

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What Happens After You Get Home

At Beaumont, patients undergo an educational session and speak with a nurse practitioner before being sent home, with special instructions on how to care for the incision wound. They get a bracelet with a phone number to a surgical intensive care unit, which they can call with questions and speak with a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or surgeon.

In some cases, a visiting nurse will see patients in their homes to check on their medication regimen, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, how the incision is healing and check for any swelling in the legs.

Patients should also be very mindful of their lifestyle choices following heart surgery by following a low-sodium, low-cholesterol diet, getting regular exercise and avoiding smoking.

Patients also get instructions to walk around the house and be active.

Dont just sit on the couch or go to bed, Dr. Dabir says. We ask them to walk around the house. They have a pretty regimented program when they go and see their cardiologist, maybe a couple of weeks out.

Can I Live A Typical Life After Heart Valve Surgery

Life Support is NOT pretty. This is after my second open heart surgery ...

It will take some time before someone can get back to their daily activities. It typically takes 612 weeks for their sternum to heal. In the meantime, they should avoid carrying heavy loads or doing activities that could aggravate the area.

So yes, it is possible to have a typical life after heart valve surgery. While it will take patience to recover from the procedure, most people report an increased quality of life after the operation.

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What Happens After Heart Surgery

After your heart surgery is done, youll be moved to the intensive care unit . Youll recover in the ICU for at least one day. Youll then move to a regular hospital room for continued rest and care.

How long you stay in the hospital depends on the surgery you had and how your body responds to it. Each persons recovery is different. Your hospital team will keep a close eye on you and make sure youre healing as you should. Theyre also prepared to notice and respond to any problems that come up.

Do You Have To Make Any Dietary Changes After Heart Bypass Surgery

A heart smart diet is always a good choice, whether you have had surgery, or are simply trying to stay healthy and strong. The Mediterranean diet is a great option.

This eating plan is rich in:

This easy-to-follow diet has been proven to reduce heart attack risk and improve the health of the arteries. For some people, cutting back on salt is also important, since salt may contribute to high blood pressure and fluid buildup.

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