After your surgery, you'll be taken to a recovery area or intensive care unit. You'll regain consciousness (wake up) after the anesthesia wears off. You may not be able to move your legs or arms at first, but your body and mind will soon become coordinated again. Your family may visit you briefly in the recovery area.
During your hospital stay, you'll have tubes and wires attached to parts of your body. These give you drugs and fluids, withdraw blood samples and monitor your blood pressure. You'll also have:
You'll spend the first two or three days in the intensive care unit. When constant monitoring is no longer needed, you'll be moved to a regular or transitional care unit.
Once your breathing tube is removed, you'll be able to swallow liquids. You'll begin a regular diet as soon as you feel up to it. You also can get out of bed, sit in a chair and walk around the room as soon as you are able. You can have sponge baths right away, and shower and shampoo in a few days.
Expect some discomfort in your chest where the incision was made. You'll be given medication to relieve the pain. The incision in your chest and leg (if a vein was removed) also may feel itchy, sore, numb or bruised.
After surgery, you may develop a low-grade fever, which may cause heavy perspiration during the night or even during the day. This may last two or three days.
In the hospital, you'll be told to practice deep breathing exercises and to cough. These are important to speed your recovery. Coughing reduces the chances of pneumonia and fever. Most patients are afraid to cough after surgery, but it won't hurt your incision or the bypass. If you feel discomfort, hold a pillow over your chest. You also should change positions in bed often because lying on your back for long periods isn't good for your lungs.
You'll probably stay in the hospital four to six days. The length of time depends on your health before your surgery and whether you experience any complications afterward.
Once you are home, it usually takes a week to start to feel better. It's common to feel weak when you return home. It will likely take another four to six weeks before you regain your energy level. You may experience:
Your doctor will tell you what need immediate emergency attention, such as chest pain similar to the angina you had before surgery. The doctor also will tell you what complaints you should report to the doctor's office, such as worsening ankle swelling or leg pain.
The American Heart Association recommends these guidelines for recovery at home:
You may resume sex four weeks after the operation.
When you return to work depends on how your recovery is going, the type of work you do and your age. If you have a sedentary job (such as sitting at a desk most of the day), you could return to work in four to six weeks. If you have a physically demanding job, you may have to wait longer — or, in some cases, find another type of work.
You may begin a cardiac rehabilitation program before you leave the hospital or up to 6 weeks after your discharge. After you leave the hospital, participating in a program usually requires a doctor's referral. Most programs meet 3 or more times a week for 12 weeks. Each meeting lasts about an hour.
Surgery will improve blood flow to your heart, but it will not prevent coronary artery disease from coming back. You have to change your lifestyle to reduce this risk.
Page 5 of 9 Next Page: Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery Treatment
From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.
You can find more great health information on the Harvard Health Publications website.