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Recovery After Heart Surgery

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Recovering From Heart Surgery

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

Most patients remain in the Intensive Care Unit for one to two days. Usually you will be allowed to move to a chair with help the day after surgery. When doctors feel you are ready, you will be moved to a telemetry unit. On this unit your heart rhythm will be monitored by a small box-like device that transmits your heart rhythm to a screen.

The nursing team will be watching your progress. You will be urged to begin small tasks with help at first. These include coughing and deep breathing, eating, getting out of bed, walking in the hallway and bathing. By the third or fourth day after surgery, you should be able to carry out these tasks by yourself.

Once you start to become more active, you will probably feel some pain or discomfort around the area of the incision. This pain is due to the spreading of your breastbone, muscles, and ligaments during surgery. As you heal the soreness will gradually go away, but it may take many weeks. Let your nurse know if you are having pain and request pain pills when you need them.

Throughout your stay, you will get stronger and be able to walk in the hall at least three times a day. The nursing staff’s cardiac rehabilitation nurse will be able to help you with your activities.

Weeks After Your Heart Bypass Surgery

  • When to drive: Most surgeons recommend waiting at least six weeks after surgery to begin driving even a minor accident could cause you to hit your chest area on the steering wheel which could disturb normal healing of your sternum.
  • When to return to work: Those who perform strenuous physical labor may need to wait longer than people who work at a desk all day.
  • When you can begin lifting heavy items: It’s important not to push yourself before your weight lifting restriction is eliminated.
  • When you can resume engaging in normal sexual activity: Don’t neglect to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

What To Expect At Home

Your child will need at least 3 or 4 more weeks at home to recover. For larger surgeries, recovery may take 6 to 8 weeks. Talk with your child’s health care provider about when your child can return to school, daycare, or take part in sports.

Pain after surgery is normal. There may be more pain after closed-heart surgery than after open-heart surgery. This is because nerves may have been irritated or cut. The pain will likely decrease after the second day and can sometimes be managed with acetaminophen .

Many children behave differently after heart surgery. They may be clingy, irritable, wet the bed, or cry. They may do these things even if they were not doing them before their surgery. Support your child through this time. Slowly begin to set the limits that were in place before the surgery.

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A Comfortable Place To Recover

Your healing can depend on you being active, but when setting up your home, have your goals be comfort and convenience. Move furniture around, in advance, so it is easier for you to get around your house. Moving from your bed to the bathroom to the kitchen to the living room should not require navigating an obstacle course.

You may have some dizziness during the first few weeks of recovery from your heart valve surgery, so try to have things you can hold onto when you walk through the house. A chair placed here and there will break up long stretches of open space, and will provide you a place to rest if feeling dizzy. The National Library of Medicine suggests you have someone stay with you for the first two weeks of recovery in case you do need assistance.

For a few weeks following cardiac surgery, you may have some discomfort in your chest or ribs. In the hospital, it was likely you receive a big red pillow or towel to hold against your chest when you cough or sneeze. Whenever you are in your house, have a pillow or towel handy in case a cough sneaks up on you.

The Big Red Patient Pillows

You May Feel Like Youre On An Emotional Roller Coaster

Fundraiser by Marc Blackham : Help Allister EC Twin pay open heart ...

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 Second Day After Surgery

On the second day after your heart bypass surgery, you may:

  • Be expected to get out of bed several times per day: You’ll be prompted to walk short distances in the hallway. You should try to walk every day and slowly, gradually, increase the distance that you walked from the day before. Walking helps prevent common post-surgery complications such as pneumonia and constipation.
  • Be able to sit up in a chair: You’ll be encouraged to eat your meals out of bed.
  • Begin eating solid foods and drinking liquids as tolerated: There will be a limit to the amount of fluids you can drink over a 24-hour period.
  • Be moved to a regular cardiac unit: When you are moved out of the ICU, your heart will continue to be monitored closely via a small portable device called a telemetry unit, which continually transmits your heart’s rhythm, heart rate, breathing and blood pressure, remotely. This enables the nurses to monitor your vital signs, even when they are not in the room with you.

Reasons To Call Your Doctor

If you feel any of these symptoms, report them to your doctor or nurse:

  • Palpitations or a heart rate greater than 120 beats per minute when you are at rest, or a change from a regular to an irregular pulse.
  • Increased fatigue or shortness of breath at rest.
  • Temperature greater than 101 degrees more than one time, or chills for 24 hours.
  • Excessive redness, swelling, soreness or drainage from any wound site.
  • Swelling in your ankles and hands with a weight gain of two or more pounds in one day or five pounds in one week.
  • Abnormal pain or other symptoms that do not go away with your medication.
  • Pain in the calf of your leg.

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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.

Who Is In Theater For Open Heart Surgery

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A team of doctors and other health professionals work together in the operating theater during open heart surgery.

The team is likely to include:

  • the lead surgeon who will direct others surgeons who will assist during the operation
  • the anesthesiologist, who is in charge of giving and anesthesia and monitoring vital signs
  • the pump team, also known as perfusionists, operate the heart-lung machine and other technical equipment that supports open heart surgery
  • nurses and technicians, who assist the surgical team and prepare the operating theater for surgery

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What To Expect Before Cardiac Ablation Surgery

Your doctor will advise you to undergo the following tests before planning cardiac ablation surgery:

Let your doctor know if you are pregnant or think that you are pregnant. Radiation is used when heat energy is applied during the surgery, which may harm your unborn baby.

You will be admitted at least a day before the cardiac ablation surgery and asked to avoid drinking and eating 9-12 hours before the procedure.

You will be informed about which medications you can take with a few sips of water and which ones you need to avoid.

On the day of the surgery, you will be given a sedative that makes you relax and stay either partially or fully asleep. This will make the procedure less painful. The amount of sedative administered depends on the type of arrhythmia you have.

Whats Normal And Whats Not

A certain amount of discomfort is normal after any surgery. Your doctor can provide you with information about what you may experience as part of your recovery.

You should begin to feel like youre starting to get back to normal after about eight or 10 weeks of recovery. If youre still experiencing shortness of breath or significant pain in your incision at that point, talk to your doctor.

Also, watch for warning signs that might mean you need immediate medical attention. Redness or drainage resembling pus in your chest area may signal infection, for example. Abnormal pain is also a red flag.

While you will have good days and bad days, if you feel like you are sliding backward more than a couple of days in a row, dont hesitate to call! Your care team would rather hear from you early if there is any question about a problem with your recovery.

Contact your doctor if you have questions or concerns about what you experience during your recovery. Making sure youre well-informed helps you avoid problems and speeds your recovery as much as possible.

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What Is The Fastest Way To Recover From Bypass Surgery

The fastest way to recover is to be patient with yourself. Take time to return to a normal routine dont try to rush it. Know that your cardiac care team cares about your recovery and is available to help you through this process.

Perhaps one of the most important steps to recovery is your outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program. This usually starts a few weeks after surgery. It includes guidance on exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle all the keys to heart health after CABG. The program is supervised by therapists who are specially trained to care for people with heart conditions.

In general, cardiac rehab programs last at least six weeks. But the length can vary depending on your needs. Its common to think its unnecessary or even too time-consuming. But we cant stress enough how important it is. Please speak with your care team if you have financial or other concerns.

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A team of physicians and nurses will advise patients on what medications to take during recovery and also on what physical activity can be done. Its normal to feel tiredness and some pain. Each patients recovery time varies but you can expect it to take many weeks or months to return to previous levels of activity. Seek care and advise your medical team of any potentially serious symptoms of infection which include difficulty breathing, a fever, and excessive sweating.

Aftercare can also include blood tests, heart scans and regular stress tests which monitor the heart during treadmill exercises.

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Tips To Help You Heal

Keeping the following things in mind will help you heal after heart surgery:

Listen to your body, especially in the first two months after surgery.

The vast majority of your healing about 80 percent of it occurs during the first two months after your surgery. During this time, you will attend cardiac rehabilitation and continue to gradually increase your activity level.

It is very important to work on increasing your activity level before cardiac rehab starts because in most programs this will be six weeks after surgery. Youll want to do as much as possible, but you may find that you tire easily or need to stop and rest during activities that you used to do with ease. Listen to your body. Make sure that youre not pushing yourself too hard and risking injury or complications.

Follow your doctors recommendations.

When it comes to resuming specific activities, its important to listen to your doctor. For example, you may need to wait at least six weeks before riding a bicycle or lifting things because your breastbone needs time to heal. Talk to your doctor about when you can start driving again.

Be patient.

After the first two months, the rest of your recovery will probably move more slowly. The remaining 20 percent typically takes almost a year. During this time, you should expect to continue to regain strength and endurance.

Eat right and get active when youre ready.

When To Call The Doctor

  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath that does not go away when you rest.
  • Your pulse feels irregular it is very slow or very fast .
  • You have dizziness, fainting, or you are very tired.
  • You have a severe headache that does not go away.
  • You have a cough that does not go away
  • You are coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus.
  • You have problems taking any of your heart medicines.
  • Your weight goes up by more than 2 pounds in a day for 2 days in a row.
  • Your wound changes. It is red or swollen, it has opened, or there is more drainage coming from it.
  • You have chills or a fever over 101°F .

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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.

Six To 10 Weeks After Surgery

Recovering from Open Heart 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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Managing Pain After Open Heart Surgery

Managing your pain is an important part of your recovery after heart surgery. In addition to keeping you comfortable, pain control can help speed your recovery and reduce your risk of developing certain complications after surgery, like pneumonia and blood clots. Your pain level should be managed to the point that youre able to get up, walk around, cough and take deep breaths after surgery.

After heart surgery, you need to be able to move with some degree of comfort to aid the healing process, Dr. Tong says. Keeping your pain level manageable will help make sure your recovery stays on track.

You may leave the hospital with a prescription for pain medication and detailed instructions on how to use those medications to manage your pain.

People are often apprehensive about taking narcotic pain medications because of the risk of addiction, Dr. Tong notes. That is a healthy and very reasonable fear and an important conversation to have with your doctor. There are safeguards in place to stem opioid abuse and protect you from abusing medications. When it comes to prescription pain medication, for most people, its a matter of listening to your body. If you need it, take it. If you dont, dont.

If you have concerns about bringing narcotics into your home, or if you have a history of substance use disorder, be honest with your doctor. Theyll be able to discuss your options with you and determine a pain control plan with you.

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.

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