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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: Recovering in the Hospital

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You will recover in the hospital after coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery until your doctors feel it is safe for you to go home. During this time, staff on the cardiac recovery floor will help begin your rehabilitation and educate you on how to care for yourself when you return home. You must demonstrate that you are capable of performing basic daily functions, including walking and sitting upright, before your doctor will agree to release you from the hospital.

Setting goals for your recovery

The staff on the cardiac recovery floor will assist you in achieving the criteria that assure them that you will be safe when you go home. Your family and friends can play important roles in your recovery.

Typical criteria to be released from the hospital include the following:

  • You can breathe using your full lung capacity.
  • You are able to eat adequately.
  • You are able to walk 100 ft (30 m) to 150 ft (45 m), four times a day.
  • Your pain has been controlled so that it does not interfere with your physical activities.

Breathing

When you arrive on the cardiac recovery floor, you will have a small tube just below your nose that supplies oxygen to your lungs. Although it may be painful, it is important that you try to take deep breaths. Taking deep breaths is the only way to use your lungs to full capacity. If you fail to take periodic deep breaths, you are more likely to develop pneumonia.

Flexing your chest wall muscles

You will exercise your chest wall muscles during your recovery with a machine called an incentive spirometer. This machine requires you to inhale forcefully through a tube connected to an air column containing a ball or a similar device. As you breathe inward, the ball within the air column moves up. How high the ball moves up shows how much air you inhale.

A healthy person who has not had surgery can typically inhale forcefully through the spirometer until the ball reaches the very top of the air column. But when you first arrive on the cardiac recovery floor, your lung capacity may only push the ball halfway up the column. By the end of your hospital stay, you should regain your full lung capacity. As you use the spirometer, your nurse or respiratory therapist will also work to improve your breathing function by asking you to breathe deeply and cough. This action keeps your lungs moving and increases their capacity.

Eliminating extra fluid weight

Most people who undergo CABG surgery retain large amounts of fluid after surgery. The majority of this fluid is usually water. Your nurses will make sure that you are getting rid of the extra fluid by:

  • Carefully monitoring your fluid intake and output.
  • Restricting the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Giving you medicines (diuretics) that help your kidneys remove extra water from your body.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 06, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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