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What happens after a cardiac bypass procedure?

After the cardiac bypass operation, you will spend 5 - 7 days in the hospital. You will spend the first 2 hours in an intensive-care unit (ICU). In the ICU, heart function is monitored continuously.

You may need the temporary assistance of a breathing tube for a few hours after surgery. Two to three tubes in the chest drain fluid from around the heart and are usually removed 1 - 3 days after surgery.

A urinary catheter in the bladder drains urine until you are able to void on your own. Intravenous lines (IV) provide fluids and medications. Nurses watch the monitors and check vital signs (pulse, temperature, breathing) constantly.

When constant monitoring is no longer needed, usually within 12 - 24 hours, you will be moved to a regular or a transitional care unit. You can gradually resume activity. You may begin a cardiac rehabilitation program within a few days. The incision in the chest does not bother most people after the first 48 - 72 hours.

After surgery, it takes 4 - 6 weeks to start feeling better. It is normal during recovery to:

  • Have a poor appetite -- it will take several weeks for it to return.
  • Have swelling in the leg if the graft was taken from the leg. Raising the leg and wearing elastic TED hose for several weeks helps reduce swelling.
  • Have difficulty sleeping at night -- this will improve.
  • Have constipation.
  • Have mood swings and feel depressed -- this will get better.
  • Have difficulty with short-term memory or feel confused -- this also improves.


Post-operative care guidelines following a CABG procedure

Your doctor will help you determine the schedule for resuming normal activities but general post-operative care routine guidelines include:

  • Strictly follow your doctor`s direction for taking all prescribed medications.
  • You may be given a tight elastic support stocking to wear around your calf to help reduce swelling.
  • Discomfort around the wound site is normal when sneezing and coughing.
  • Watch for symptoms of infection at the wound site such as redness, drainage of pus, heat, or increasing pain.
  • If you develop problems such as difficulty breathing, or a swollen and tender calf muscle, contact your surgeon or doctor immediately.
  • Strictly avoid lifting, pulling or pushing heavy objects for at least six to eight weeks following your surgery.
  • Eat a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and cold-water fish (such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, swordfish and sea mullet) while avoid consuming saturated fats such as those found in animal products and dairy foods.
  • All activities that do not cause fatigue are permitted. You must follow your surgeon`s advise on exercise and physical fitness.
  • You may resume sexual activities 4 weeks after surgery.
  • Quit smoking.


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