Heart Attack Recovery
After surgery, you may to the surgical recovery room or intensive care unit (ICU) where the medical team will closely monitor you. Your friends or family can visit briefly while you are in recovery. You may stay overnight or be transferred to another unit.
During surgery, a breathing tube will be placed in your mouth. In some cases, the tube may be removed in the operating room. If the breathing tube is still in your mouth when you wake up, it may be uncomfortable but it will be removed when you are awake enough to cough and breathe deeply. This usually takes between one to six hours. During this time the nurses and staff will help you communicate.
Once the breathing tube is removed, you will be asked to cough and do breathing exercises to prevent pneumonia. You may be able to swallow liquids. Progression to solid foods is dependent on your digestive system.
Many patients are connected to tubes and wires for monitoring purposes and to assist the medical team in evaluating your progress. Tests will be performed during your stay, such as an EKG, blood pressure monitoring and blood sampling.
Soreness will occur from the incisions. If you are uncomfortable, remember to ask for pain medication.
You will be instructed about activity and assisted as needed.
You may feel tired or even exhausted. Fatigue is to be expected after a surgical procedure.
Your complete hospital stay may range from three to seven days, depending on the procedure performed and the necessary treatments required following your surgery.
You may need about six to eight weeks of healing time before you can return to your normal routine. Your doctor or healthcare professional will provide you with the post-operative instructions to follow. In general, these instructions may include:
- Contact your physician if you experience any chest pain.
- Observe the incisions daily. Notify your doctor of any redness, swelling or drainage at the site of your incisions.
- Avoid heavy lifting (greater than 10 pounds)
- Avoid straining to move your bowels, pushing/pulling heavy objects or working with your arms overhead. These activities place an added strain on a healing heart incision and may elevate your blood pressure.
- Take a rest period at least once a day. Resting helps your body to heal.
- Avoid driving a car for four to six weeks after surgery.
- Bathing is permitted. Warm showers are encouraged. However, tub baths are usually discouraged for four to six weeks. Hot water should be avoided as it may cause you to feel dizzy or weak.
- Walking is the recommended exercise. Begin slowly, and increase your distance as tolerated. Stair climbing is also permitted. Consult your physician about resuming other physical activities.
- If your saphenous vein was used as a bypass graft, swelling may occur in the leg. Your healthcare professional may recommend that you wear the elastic support stockings provided by the hospital for a period of time.
Planning for the Future
Your doctor will discuss with you the importance of a cardiovascular rehabilitation program. Cardiac rehabilitation can speed your recovery and reduce your chances of having more heart problems.
After the initial recovery period, you should resume a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet and return to regular exercise. Coronary artery disease prevention should become an integral part of your lifestyle.
Certain factors increase your risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries):
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Sedentary lifestyle
By changing your lifestyle and reducing the risk factors associated with coronary artery disease, you can control and improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life.