Heart Surgery Recovery
Recovery in the hospital
After your surgery, you may spend a day or more in the hospital's intensive care unit (ICU), depending on the type of surgery you had. An intravenous (IV) needle might be inserted in a blood vessel in your arm or chest to give you fluids until you're ready to drink on your own. Your healthcare team may also give you extra oxygen through a face mask or nasal prongs that fit just inside your nose. They will remove the mask or prongs when you no longer need them.
When you leave the ICU, you will be moved to another part of the hospital for several days before you go home. While you're in the hospital, your healthcare team will closely watch your heart rate, , breathing, and incision site(s).
Recovery at home
People respond differently to heart surgery. Your recovery at home will depend on what kind of heart problem and surgery you had, as well as your overall health. Before you go home, your provider will tell you how to:
- Care for your healing incision(s)
- Recognize signs of infection or other complications
- Cope with the after-effects of surgery
Your healthcare team will give you information about follow-up appointments, medicines, and situations when you should call your provider right away. They will also let you know when you should expect to resume daily activities such as driving and working.
Discomfort and some pain after heart surgery are normal. Your provider will work with you to give you medicine to ease any pain you may feel. Some common after-effects of heart surgery include:
- Constipation, especially if you are taking pain medicine
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Memory problems
- Mood swings or depression
- Pain in your chest or muscles, especially if you have an incision in your leg from coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)
Ongoing care and recovery
You will need to see your provider regularly to monitor your recovery and take steps to prevent another heart problem.
- Schedule regular checkups. Checkups with your provider or surgeon are an essential part of your ongoing care after heart surgery. During these visits, you may have blood tests or heart tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiography, or a stress test. These tests will show how your heart is working after the surgery.
- Take your medicine as prescribed. Depending on your condition and type of heart procedure, you may need to take a blood-thinning medicine for several months following your surgery.
- Make heart-healthy lifestyle changes. Your provider may recommend lifestyle changes to help you stay healthy. For example, your provider may advise you to quit smoking, choose heart-healthy foods, be physically active (when it is safe to do so), manage stress, and get enough good quality sleep.
- Learn more about how to protect your heart and prevent future problems. Depending on the type of heart surgery, your provider may refer you to cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program for people recovering from heart problems. It usually includes exercise training, education on heart-healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you recover. Your provider can help you find a cardiac rehabilitation program near your home.