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Follow Your Doctor's Orders!

If you have any questions about your care or condition, or about any post-surgical activity, contact your surgeon or cardiologist.

These instructions apply to coronary artery bypass surgery. For those with other types of heart, chest or vascular surgery, follow instructions provided to you by your surgeon and nurse.

Should you have questions about any aspect of your care, contact our office.

Post-Surgical Instruction for
Coronary Heart Bypass Patients

Important Notice: The instructions provided below apply to most patients following coronary bypass surgery. Patient conditions and capabilities can vary, however, and these instructions are not intended to replace specific instructions from your doctor.

Once You Are Home Following a Coronary Artery Bypass:

  • Walk! Try to increase your activity level a little bit each day. Walking will help you become stronger, will help reduce soreness and swelling, and will improve your appetite and attitude.
  • Expect some soreness. You will probably have pains, numbness and/or kinks in your chest for weeks following surgery. These will diminish with time and general activity.
  • Do not lift anything heavy (more than 5 pounds). Your breast bone must have time to heal, which generally takes 6-8 weeks for most individuals.
  • Eat to regain your strength. Appetite loss is common following major surgery. For the first 4-to-6 weeks following surgery, eat what you like and don’t worry excessively about your diet. It is important, however, that you adopt healthy, life-long eating habits. Your cardiologist will probably discuss a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet with you.
  • Do not drive for at least four weeks. You may ride in a car, however. Keep your car trips within 50 miles until released by your doctor.
  • Swelling in your legs and ankles is common after surgery, especially if you had vein grafts taken from your leg(s). If you experience swelling, wear the support stockings you wore while in the hospital. Put the stockings on before you get out of bed in the morning or after you have elevated your legs for at least 30-45 minutes in the mornings. Walking also helps with leg swelling and circulation.
  • If you need additional medication for pain or any discomfort, please call your surgeon. Try to call prior to a weekend.
  • You may take a shower, but do not use bathtubs or swimming pools as long as scabs are present.
  • Clean your incisions with hydrogen peroxide and/or antibacterial soap. Do not apply ointments, creams or lotions. You may expect some drainage from your chest tube sites, but if you experience drainage from the long, vertical incision in your chest, call your surgeon's office.
  • To reduce the potential for blood clots and to promote good circulation, take one coated aspirin, such as Ecotrin, everyday unless you have an allergy to aspirin. If you are allergic to aspirin, talk to your doctor.
  • You may experience constipation due to changes in your eating habits and the effects of pain medication. If this becomes a persistent problem, contact your doctor.
  • Recognize that getting back to your old self takes a little time. You may experience periods of depression or anxiety. Be a friend to yourself and be patient. Understand that physical and emotional healing take time.

A post-surgical visit with your surgeon will be scheduled two-to-four weeks following surgery. This is a good opportunity for you to discuss your questions and concerns. To help you remember important questions, we encourage you to write down your questions prior to your appointment.

As your recovery progresses, you are bound to have many more questions about work, travel, sex, exercise, medications, diet and more. Your cardiologist and/or primary care physician will guide your long-term care and recovery. Following their care and instruction is your best path to long-term health and recovery from heart disease.