Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: Self-Care for Recovery

Font Size

Topic Overview

What are my responsibilities during my recovery from bypass surgery?

You have several responsibilities while you are recovering from coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, including:

  • Caring for your wounds.
  • Taking your medicines.
  • Monitoring your weight.
  • Improving your heart and lung health.
  • Attending cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Making changes in your lifestyle.

Everyone heals at a different rate. But following your doctor's orders can help you achieve a fast and comfortable recovery.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

Acute Myocardial Infarcation (Heart Attack) Patient Education Center

  Visit WebMD's Heart Disease Health Center Newly Diagnosed? Find out more Heart Attack: Get Information From the Cleveland Clinic Cardiac Rehabilitation: Get Information From the Cleveland Clinic Looking for Clinical Trials? Check here Cholesterol Facts Test Your Heart Attack Knowledge Reach Out: Heart...

Read the Acute Myocardial Infarcation (Heart Attack) Patient Education Center article > >

Settling in at home

It may be worthwhile to keep all of your medical information together and handy during your recovery, including:

  • Self-care instructions. These are instructions from your medical team about how to care for yourself. You may want to have a folder or binder to keep this information organized.
  • Medicine information. This is a list of all the medicines you are prescribed after you leave the hospital. These medicines might be different from medicines you took before your CABG surgery.
  • Contact information. This is a list of the names and phone numbers of your primary care physician, cardiologist, and cardiac surgeon, in case of an emergency. You may also want to keep a calendar with the dates and times of scheduled follow-up appointments.
  • Insurance information. This is a card with information on your health insurance coverage, in case you need to return to the hospital. You may want to keep this in your wallet in case you are not at home.

Caring for your wounds

A major aspect of your recovery is caring for the incision (sternotomy) made to open your chest during CABG surgery. Because it is so important that this incision heals properly, many limitations are placed on you during your recovery. You also need to take care of the skin around your arm or leg incisions. All of your incisions need to be taken care of so that they can heal quickly and without infection. To do this, you need to:

  • Take a warm (not hot) shower every day.
  • Apply an antiseptic, such as povidone-iodine (Betadine, for example), to your incisions after you shower.
  • Inspect your incisions every day.
  • Tell your doctor if you notice excessive pain, redness, or swelling or if you have a fever.

Do not:

  • Remove the tape from your incisions (it will come off by itself).
  • Take baths.
  • Scrub or rub your incisions.
  • Use lotion or powder on your incisions.
  • Overexpose your incisions to sunlight.

Your chest

Your surgeon may cut through your chest bone, or sternum, to perform your CABG surgery. Unlike other bones in your body, your sternum cannot be placed in a cast while it heals. Instead, your surgeon wraps heavy wire around it to hold the edges together. The sternum can heal properly only if the ends are held together constantly for several weeks. Therefore, you should not engage in strenuous activities that could shift the two edges apart during the first 4 to 6 weeks of your recovery.

Two activities that can shift the edges of your sternum apart and so should be avoided are:

  • Lifting objects heavier than 5 lb (2.3 kg), including small children, trash baskets, and bikes.
  • Driving (even a minor car accident may cause your chest to hit the steering wheel).
1|2|3

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 20, 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.
Next Article:

Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: Self-Care for Recovery Topics

Hot Topics

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

tea
What you should eat.
Woman sitting in front of UV lights
Is yours working?
woman using breath spray
What's causing yours?
colon xray
Get the facts.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
bowl of yogurt with heart shape
Eat for a healthy heart.
woman doing pushups
To help you get fit.
Colored x-ray of tooth decay
Know what to look for.
Woman sitting with child
Do you know the symptoms?
fruit drinks
Foods that can help you focus.
Sad dog and guacamole
Don't feed this to your dog.
Thyroid exam
See how much you know.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.