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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: What to Expect After You Go Home

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Although you may return home a few days after the completion of your coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure, it may take several months before you can return to all of the activities you enjoyed prior to surgery. Recovery from major surgery has both physical and emotional aspects.

For the first month or two after you are discharged from the hospital, you will be working to return to your presurgical level of activity. Your doctor will set goals for you to reach and will place restrictions on activities that would slow your recovery.

Physical aspects of recovery

The pace of your physical recovery will depend significantly on your health before you received bypass surgery. For example, if you had coronary artery disease (CAD) but no other medical conditions, it will probably take you less time to resume a normal activity level than if you are older or have other medical conditions.

Your recovery will take at least 4 to 6 weeks. During your recovery from CABG surgery, your life will probably be quite different from how it was before your surgery. The table below lists "normal" physical conditions after CABG surgery.

During CABG surgery recovery

It is normal to:

Why?

What can I do?

Not have much of an appetite.

The thought of food makes you feel nauseated, or you cannot taste anything.

  • Be patient. Your appetite will soon be back to normal.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Try eating frequent, small meals.

Have swelling in your arm or leg where blood vessels were removed.

You have incisions there as well as missing blood vessels that your surgeon used to bypass your coronary arteries.

  • Keep your swollen arm or leg elevated.
  • Wear support hose if ordered by your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if it doesn't improve.

Have difficulty sleeping.

You are in pain and/or are not very physically active.

  • Take your pain medicine before you go to bed.
  • Try not to take naps during the day.

Have sore or tight muscles in your shoulders and upper back.

You were in the same position during your surgery and early recovery.

  • Be patient.
  • Take your pain medicine.
  • Try warm, moist packs and massage.

Have a lump over your incision.

Your skin and muscle are healing.

  • Do nothing.
  • Watch for signs of infection: redness, discharge, fever, and pain.

Be constipated.

It is a side effect of some medicines, and/or you are not very physically active.

  • Eat more fruits and foods with fiber.
  • Ask your doctor to recommend a laxative.

Emotional aspects of recovery

Recovering from CABG surgery means not only getting back your physical strength but also your emotional and mental well-being. The fatigue and pain you might be experiencing may make you feel depressed. You may:

  • Have mood swings.
  • Cry easily.
  • Feel afraid or anxious.
  • Get frustrated.
  • Be irritable.
  • Not be able to concentrate.
  • Have good days and bad days.
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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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