Resuming Normal Activities After Open Heart Surgery
Its important to remember that not everyone heals at the same rate. People who have diabetes or are taking steroids may take longer to heal after surgery. Age can play a role, too, as recovery may take longer in adults who are older. Complete recovery takes about three to six months.
At any phase in your recovery, using common sense is the best way to keep yourself from overdoing it, Dr. Tong says.
If an activity causes pressure or pain, stop. If your sternum doesnt heal properly after surgery, it can cause you a lot of pain and complicate the healing process.
If you arent sure an activity is safe, check with your surgeon first. And contact your doctor right away if you experience:
- Redness on your chest larger than a quarter or drainage that resembles pus. This might signal an infection.
- A clicking noise in your chest when you cough or breathe deeply. This could mean the wire holding your sternum together has broken.
- Abnormal pain.
Overall, give yourself time to heal, while gradually doing a little more each week. Continue to work with your doctor until youre up to speed on your normal activities.
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
The Cost Of Not Supporting The Patient
The most important aspect of suboptimal outcomes is the damage to patients’ lives and those of their families, but there are financial consequences as well. Having highly trained medical personnel perform a complex and costly repair is not a good use of medical resources if the patient then fails to recover for a preventable reason.
Patients who are depressed or anxious and therefore have suboptimal recoveries but do not die have postsurgical medical costs two to three times greater than patients with a normal recovery . Thus, in terms of both cost and utilization, it is beneficial to manage the mental part of the recovery.
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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.
Getting Back To Normal Life
After open-heart surgery, life will never be quite the same in fact, it might be even better! As the patient continues to heal, their doctor and other individuals involved with care will be able to recommend when they will be able to start exercising, traveling, returning to work, or taking on more strenuous recreational activities. If you are someone who is caring for a loved one after open-heart surgery, one of the most important things you can do is encourage walking , a daily routine, personal care, and self-care for yourself as well.
If you are feeling hesitant about the stability of the incision or would benefit from some peace of mind as a caregiver, you may want to consider discussing a support harness or post-operative bra. The support and comfort that can come from either of these great options can help speed your recovery by reducing your anxiety, your perception of pain and stabilizing your incision and sternum as well.
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What Is Recovery Like After Open
Recovery time varies depending on the surgery type, complications and your overall health before surgery. It can take 6 to 12 weeks to recover from an open-heart procedure.
Your surgeon will let you know when you can return to work and other activities. Typically, you shouldnt drive or lift anything heavy for the first six weeks.
Some people need to take blood thinners after heart surgery to prevent blood clots. Your healthcare provider may also recommend cardiac rehabilitation. This medically supervised program can help you regain strength and stamina and improve overall heart health.
Side Effects After Open Heart Surgery
Open heart surgery is required to repair a number of common heart ailments, including blocked arteries and related heart problems. The procedure is conducted with the aid of a heart-lung machine which carries out important bodily functions while the heart is being operated upon.
While open heart surgery is a very serious type of surgery, it is also one of the most commonly-performed operations in advanced countries and has a very high overall survival rate. Here are some considerations and side effects if you are to undergo surgery:
At The Hospital:
You should not eat or drink within eight hours of the scheduled surgery time. Patients are usually admitted on the morning of the surgery.
After surgery, you will be monitored in the cardiac intensive care unit and later on the general floor of the hospital. Hospital stays after surgery are usually 3 to 4 days.
Recovery times for full open heart surgery may be 6 to 12 weeks or more. However, recovery for off-pump surgery and minimally-invasive heart surgery may take much less time.
Side Effects After Open Heart Surgery:
People who have undergone or are about to undergo heart surgery are often concerned about the side effects after open heart surgery. Here are some of the most common side-effects, all of which are normal and NOT a cause for alarm in most cases:
Medicine Side Effects:
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Recovering At Home From Open Heart Surgery
Youve just had open heart surgery and youre now recovering at home. Mercy Healthcare Services, a San Diego-based Home Health Agency specializing in post-open heart care, have put together this video guide just for you. In our 4 videos, we talk about the top reasons why patients get re-admitted to the hospital and what you can do to prevent them.
One of the top reasons post-open heart patients get re-admitted to the hospital is a condition known as Heart Failure. Heart failure is when the heart does not pump or fill with blood well. This causes the heart to lag behind in its job of moving blood throughout the body.
This can lead to symptoms such as swelling, trouble breathing, and feeling tired. If you have heart failure, your heart has not actually “failed” or stopped beating. It just isn’t working as well as it should.
So, what are the symptoms of heart failure?
1. Changes in breathing. Every morning, when you get up, you need to check and look for changes in breathing.
Ask yourself these questions:
Can I breathe as well as I normally can?
Am I getting out of breath doing things I can normally do without a problem? Doi
Am I coughing more than usual?
Did I use more pillows than usual to sleep last night?
2. Changes in weight
Weigh yourself every morning after urinating but before eating. Write down your weight on a calendar. Then ask yourself:
· Has my weight gone up or gone down compared to yesterday? If so, by how many pounds?
3. New or worse swelling
You May Experience Collarbone And Sternum Pain After Open
Sometimes you can have prolonged collarbone and sternum pain. Collarbone pain and sternum pain can be caused by the trauma of the surgery on your body or sternal wires. This pain can be sometimes helped with cardiac rehab or a resternotomy. However, make sure to communicate with your doctor about your pain to make sure its normal. After this past open heart surgery, Ive had a lot of pain and clicking in my shoulders and chest. Its caused a lot of chronic pain but working with physical therapy has helped me regain strength.
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Three Months And Beyond
After three months, youll be able to engage in more rigorous and heavier exercise and activity. As always, be very mindful of how youre feeling and try not to overdo it.
At this point, youll be able to participate in a full range of workouts and sports, you can take on more strenuous home and garden projects .
In general, before starting up a new activity or taking up one that you used to do, ask your healthcare provider if its safe. Dont hesitate to seek out medical advice and/or help if anything seems off.
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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What Are The Types Of Open
There are two ways to perform open-heart surgery:
- On-pump: A heart-lung bypass machine connects to the heart and temporarily takes over for the heart and lungs. It circulates blood through the body while moving blood away from the heart. The surgeon then operates on a heart that isnt beating and doesnt have blood flow. After surgery, the surgeon disconnects the device and the heart starts to work again.
- Off-pump:Off-pump bypass surgery takes place on a heart that continues to beat on its own. This approach only works for coronary artery bypass grafting surgery . Your surgeon may call this beating-heart surgery.
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.
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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!
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.
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What Patients Hear
We have collected representative instructions, restrictions, and comments that patients report having been given by their physicians or other medical professionals after surgery. These responses were collected from patients who had undergone open chest surgery for CABG or for aortic aneurysm repair. The respondents had written their stories for the Web, meaning that they are a select subgroup of patients: computer-literate people who can actively seek adviceand question it. Thus, this survey is in no way scientific, but it provides some insights.
The patients were asked, What advice were you given post-surgery about resuming the activities of normal daily living? Thirty-four patients gave 40 comments. Of the comments, 33 described advice that was vague, very restrictive, or not actionable or that prohibited a key element of the patient’s pre-surgical life. The remaining seven comments described advice that was actionable and helpful to the patient.
Here are examples of unhelpful advice or restrictions:
Most of the comments categorized as unhelpful are only restrictivethey lack emphasis on returning to presurgical life or contain no actionable advice. In addition, we contend that they are dangerous in that they can weaken self-efficacy and reduce functional ability, leading to depression and suboptimal outcomes.
Here are examples of helpful advice:
What Are The Risks
Most heart surgeries are major surgeries. Although often successful, they do entail risks. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute identifies some of these risks as:
- Damage to tissues in the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs
- Death, especially for someone who is already very sick before surgery
The risk is higher if you have other diseases or conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or kidney or lung disease.
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From Hospital Discharge To Six Weeks
As you begin getting back into your routine, remember to start with small tasks and take plenty of breaks. Dont overdo it.
After you leave the hospital, unless your surgeon says otherwise, you may return to activities such as:
- Light cleaning.
- Climbing stairs.
Some things are still off limits, though.Dont lift, pull or push anything that weighs more than 10 pounds. Its too soon to drive, too, but its OK to ride in a car.
What Should You Avoid Doing After Having Cabg Surgery
Your body needs quite a bit of time to heal after a major surgery like CABG. Its important to follow your care teams instructions and ask them when you have questions. They will likely advise you to avoid certain activities while you recover, some of which may include the following:
It takes time for the sternum to heal. So for at least a couple of weeks after surgery, most people should avoid lifting, pushing, or pulling more than 10 pounds.
You should also limit use of your arms to simple everyday tasks like getting dressed and playing cards. In other words, dont lift your arms above your head or behind your back.
Dont drive for the first 2 to 3 weeks. This helps avoid injuring your chest, but its also because you may still be on pain meds and not feeling 100% yet.
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How Do You Care For Someone After Open Heart Surgery
The thought of caring for your spouse after open heart surgery may be daunting. How do you know what to do or how to take care of them? Dont worry: your doctor will likely send you home with a lengthy list of post-surgical care tips, possibly including some suggestions for what to wear after open heart surgery, like a post-thorax vest to protect your loved ones sternum.
The most important thing to remember about caring for a loved one after surgery is to be prepared: know what kinds of meals might be best for healing, what type of transportation schedule youll need to set up to get them to and from rehabilitation appointments, what kinds of home-health aids they might need , and how to help manage their pain or nausea levels.
Post-surgical rehabilitation will likely include some form of physical therapy or occupational therapy. Youll want to discuss options for senior rehabilitation centers with your doctor to ensure you understand the basics of rehabilitation therapy and how to choose the senior care facility thats right for you or your loved one. For more information, read our blog post about how to determine when a senior might need rehabilitation therapy!