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After Open Heart Bypass Surgery-Recovering From Open Heart Surgery

Recovery After Open Heart Bypass Surgery


Updated May 30, 2014

After Open Heart Bypass Surgery

Healthy Heart After Open Heart Bypass Surgery


Recovery From Open Heart Surgery:

In many surgeries, drugs are given to wake the patient immediately after the incision is closed. Most surgeons opt to allow CABG patients to wake slowly, to prevent any stress on the heart that might happen when waking abruptly.

The patient will be taken to the recovery area, usually a cardiac or surgical intensive care unit, for care while coming out of anesthesia. The critical care environment is necessary to provide the patient with one on one nursing care and constant monitoring. At this time the ventilator will remain in use, providing breathing support while the patient remains sedated.

One or more chest tubes, large tubes that are inserted around the surgical site, help remove any blood that may have collected around the heart. A large IV called a Swan-Ganz will also be in place, allowing staff to monitor critical heart functions and infuse medications.

Once the anesthesia drugs wear off and the patient is awake, the breathing tube is removed (a process called extubation) and the patient is able to breathe on their own. Immediately after extubation supplemental oxygen may be given by nose, to assist with breathing. Oxygen levels and breathing will be closely monitored and if a patient cannot breathe adequately without the ventilator, the breathing tube will be reinserted.

Once awake and breathing on their own, the patient will begin rigorous rehabilitation, starting with sitting on the edge of the bed or standing and walking a few steps to a chair. The patient will be instructed in ways to move that minimize pain and how to protect the surgical wound. At this time, pain medication is available to allow the patient to move without intense pain.

A CABG patient will typically stay in the intensive care environment for at least twenty four hours. The chest tubes are usually removed within forty eight hours of surgery, before transferring to a step-down unit. Many CABG patients indicate a significant improvement in pain level when the chest tubes are removed.

Life After Open Heart Bypass Surgery:

CABG is not a cure for heart disease; it is a highly effective treatment. A CABG patient who does not follow their doctor’s instructions to change their diet, quit smoking, exercise, lose weight or control their blood sugar may find that their coronary artery disease has returned, and is blocking the new grafts.

Some patients may require rehabilitation after returning home to help with strength and stamina. Some facilities have a specialized heart rehabilitation program while others use the services of physical therapists.

For More Information About The Human Heart & Heart Surgery


Patient Information Pamphlet The Mayo Clinic.com Health library 1995-2007

Raja S, Dreyfus G, “Will off-pump coronary artery surgery replace conventional coronary artery surgery?” Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Volume 97, June 2004.

Turley A, Roberts AP, Morley R, Thornley AR, Owens WA, de Belder MA. “Secondary prevention following coronary artery bypass grafting has improved but remains sub-optimal: the need for targeted follow-up” Interactive Cardiothoracic Surgery. 30 Jan. 2008

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