What Should I Do after Cardiac Surgery?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
After leaving the hospital, cardiac rehab patients must regularly see a doctor who monitors their condition.
After leaving the hospital, cardiac rehab patients must regularly see a doctor who monitors their condition.

Cardiac surgery often greatly improves a person's heart health, but there are a few things a patient must do to keep his heart working properly after undergoing this procedure. Allowing time for cardiac surgery recovery is important, for example. A patient should watch for any signs of infection in his surgical incision, and continue taking any medications recommended by his doctor. Doctors also will likely encourage cardiac surgery patients to improve their lifestyles by stopping smoking, exercising, and improving their diets.

Cardiac surgery can greatly improve a person's heart health.
Cardiac surgery can greatly improve a person's heart health.

After cardiac surgery, your doctor will most likely give you information on how to care for your incision. Following these instructions is very important, since this will help your incision heal faster, as well as minimize the risk of infection. The area should be washed gently with a mild soap and warm water. Vigorously rubbing the area can irritate the tissue and prolong healing time. Baths should also be avoided for up to six weeks after cardiac surgery. No creams and lotions should be applied to the incision either, unless they are recommended by your doctor.

Understanding what takes place during heart surgery can help some patients deal with post-operative changes more easily.
Understanding what takes place during heart surgery can help some patients deal with post-operative changes more easily.

If you begin to notice any signs of infection surrounding the incision area after cardiac surgery, you should call your doctor immediately. Signs of infection include increased pain or tenderness, redness and swelling, drainage from the incision, and fever. A doctor should also be notified as soon as possible if the incision reopens, or if your sternum feels like it is moving or popping.

Cardiac surgeons will also typically prescribe medications after cardiac surgery. Some of these medications may include vitamins, antibiotics, blood thinners, and diuretics. Medications to help control blood pressure and heart rate are also usually prescribed. These medications should be taken as instructed, or until your doctor informs you otherwise.

Most people will also need to undergo several lifestyle changes after cardiac surgery. Doctors highly advise that cardiac patients stop smoking. Doing so can make heart disease worse.

Proper nutrition and exercise are also important after cardiac surgery. Your doctor will most likely assist you in designing a healthy diet that can help lower you blood pressure and cholesterol. A well-balanced, healthy diet can also help manage other medical conditions, such as diabetes and obesity.

Exercise after cardiac surgery may be a little uncomfortable, due to your incision. Starting light exercise as soon as possible, however, is advised. Walking everyday and performing light chores around the house are good ways to start. Be careful not to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) for the first few weeks, though, since this can cause further damage or prolong healing time.

Cardiac rehabilitation is usually recommended after cardiac surgery as well. This program is designed to help heart patients reduce the risk of future heart problems. It can help you learn how to eat well and exercise to stay healthy.

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    • After leaving the hospital, cardiac rehab patients must regularly see a doctor who monitors their condition.
      By: spotmatikphoto
      After leaving the hospital, cardiac rehab patients must regularly see a doctor who monitors their condition.
    • Cardiac surgery can greatly improve a person's heart health.
      By: Gennadiy Poznyakov
      Cardiac surgery can greatly improve a person's heart health.
    • Understanding what takes place during heart surgery can help some patients deal with post-operative changes more easily.
      By: Matthew Cole
      Understanding what takes place during heart surgery can help some patients deal with post-operative changes more easily.