The heart is a muscular organ that pumps oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to our organs and tissues and carries away deoxygenated blood. Together with blood vessels (veins, arteries, and veins) and blood, the heart makes up the body’s circulatory system.
Any abnormality in heart functioning may disturb our whole system. Healthcare providers may recommend various treatment modalities, such as diet management, exercises, medications, and surgical repair.
Whenever we hear about cardiac surgery, our mind automatically drifts toward open bypass cardiac surgery. But it is not only a surgical procedure one may receive. Numerous invasive and non-invasive procedures are available to treat various cardiovascular diseases and conditions.
The following are a few common heart or cardiac surgery:
- Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure
- Heart valve repair or replacement
- Aneurysm repair
- Placement of a pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
- Insertion of Ventricular Assist Device (VAD)
- Open heart surgery
- Minimal invasive cardiac surgery
- Robot-assisted cardiac surgery
- Various cardiac procedures, such as cardiac catheterization and angiography
The healthcare providers suggest dietary regulations, physical work, and operation site care after whatever cardiac procedures or surgery you have undergone.
What are the postoperative instructions for cardiac surgery?
Heart surgery can be a stressful experience, so if you are a candidate for it, you are probably wondering about your recovery from the cardiac operation and what life will be like afterward. As everyone encounters different healing experiences or postoperative complications, the following are some general guidelines to take care during recovering after major cardiac surgery at home:
- Check your heart rate and blood pressure daily:
You can ask your healthcare provider or check your pulse and BP by monitoring devices at home. You should notify your doctor if you notice any fluctuations from the normal range.
- Take your prescribed medications on time:
Your doctor may prescribe some additional new medicines and change the dosage of old drugs before discharge from the hospital. Listen carefully, and you can ask your accompanying partner to notify all medication instructions and follow them.
- Incision site care:
Keep your wound dry and clean. If you notice any sign of infection, such as an increase in pain, redness, discharge, fever, or opening of incision, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Most incision infections occur within 14 days of the operation.
- Monitor your weight:
A sudden weight gain after surgery may be a sign of fluid retention, which may indicate functional insufficiency of your heart or kidneys. Therefore, keep a tab on your weight and inform your doctor at the follow-up appointments.
- Maintain follow-up appointments:
Your doctor needs to monitor your heart condition after surgery, so attend these post-surgery follow-up appointments. On these appointments, your healthcare provider may perform various tests, remove sutures, and review your medications. You can also bring a questionnaire, your symptoms list, and your pulse or BP measurement list to the appointment.
- Other precautions:
Your healthcare provider may suggest a few tips for better recovery, such as:
- Avoid lifting heavy weights at least 6-8 weeks after cardiac surgery.
- Your healthcare provider may prohibit you from driving for at least four weeks.
- Over the next four weeks, avoid any activities that require pushing, pulling, or lifting weights that are more than five pounds.
- You should avoid performing activities that cause extreme shoulder movements, such as golf, baseball, tennis, and swimming.
- Gradually return to your routine:
Gradually resume your everyday lifestyle, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, performing light exercises, reducing your stress levels, and getting enough sleep, which can improve your heart health.
- Join cardiac rehabilitation program:
Your healthcare specialist may recommend you a cardiac rehabilitation program after 2-4 weeks post-surgery. This program helps you improve your health and recover from cardiac surgery. Cardiac rehabilitation involves planning appropriate exercises, emotional support, and lifestyle modifications to reduce the risks of heart disease.
- Recognize warning signs and symptoms and react accordingly:
During the recovery, immediately contact your healthcare specialist if you feel chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, nausea, vomiting, or pain in the jaw, neck, shoulder, or arm.
The recovery process after heart surgery can be slow, but you must allow your body to heal thoroughly. Do not overdo and stop if you feel tired or experience pain or pressure during an activity. The risk of injury or postoperative complications increases when you push yourself too hard.
Dr. Sandeep Singh | Director & Senior Consultant – Cardiac Surgery | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi.