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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: Self-Care for Recovery

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Your arm or leg

Your arm or leg incision may be swollen and painful. This results not only from the incision that cut through your skin and muscle but also from losing a blood vessel in your arm or leg that would normally circulate blood in the area of the incision. It will take a little time for your arm or leg to adjust to the missing vessel and for your incision to heal.

To help your arm or leg recover faster and more comfortably, you can:

  • Keep your swollen arm or leg elevated.
  • Wear special supportive hose (available from your doctor).

Taking your medicines

You will take medicines after your CABG surgery. Your doctor or nurse will give you written instructions for taking your medicines before you leave the hospital. These new medicines may be in addition to or instead of the medicines you were taking before your surgery. Make sure that your doctor or nurse explains very clearly to you what medicines you should be taking.

For tips on taking medicine see:

Taking Medicines as Prescribed

Watching your weight

It is important to watch your weight very closely after your surgery. A sudden increase in your weight is often a sign of fluid retention. This fluid retention can point to a problem, such as worsening heart function and kidney failure.

To monitor your weight, you should:

  • Weigh yourself at the same time every morning.
  • Keep a record of your weight.
  • Bring your weight record with you when you visit your doctor.
  • Call your doctor if you gain 3 lb (1.4 kg) or more in 2 to 3 days.

Improving your heart and lung functions

While you are recovering from your CABG surgery, you will need to work on increasing your physical activity or exercising. You need to become more physically active, because you need to restore your full lung function. You also need to improve the blood circulation throughout your body. This will help your body heal properly.

If you do not exercise, you risk getting blood clots in the blood vessels of your legs. This is a painful condition that can cause several complications, including blockage of a blood vessel.

Walking is an excellent exercise after CABG surgery. Walking is safe and someone else can easily walk with you. Your leg will be sore if your surgeon removed blood vessels from your leg to use during your surgery. Despite this pain, it is important to your recovery that you continue to walk.

Attending cardiac rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) programs can start in the hospital or soon after you go home after surgery. Cardiac rehab helps you recover and teaches you how to be more active and make lifestyle changes that can lead to a stronger heart and better health. Cardiac rehab can help you feel better and lower your risk of future heart problems.

A cardiac rehab team often includes a doctor, a nurse specialist, a dietitian, an exercise therapist, and a physical therapist. The team designs a program just for you, based on your health and goals. Then they give you support to help you succeed.

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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.
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