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    Your Recovery After Heart Surgery

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    The first phase of heart surgery recovery can last from 6 to 8 weeks. When you're released from the hospital, you'll get a set of instructions for post-surgery care. These will help you heal physically and feel better.

    Wound Care

    Keep the cut your surgeon made clean and dry. You should be able to take a bath or shower within a few days.

    Call the doctor if you have any signs of an infection, including:

    • More drainage or oozing than usual
    • Edges pulling apart
    • Redness or warmth around the cut
    • Fever greater than 100 F

    You should also call your doctor when your breast bone feels like it shifts, or if it pops or cracks when you move.

    Pain Relief

    Your doctor will probably prescribe pain medication before you leave the hospital.

    Some discomfort around the cut and in your muscles -- including itching, tightness, and numbness along the incision -- are normal. But it shouldn't hurt as much as it did before your surgery.

    If you had a bypass, your legs may hurt more than your chest if the surgeon used leg veins as grafts. The soreness and stiffness will fade with time. Gentle exercise will help, too.

    Activity and Driving

    For the first 6 to 8 weeks, gradually build up your activity, such as doing household chores. In general, doctors recommend:

    • Don't stand in one place longer than 15 minutes.
    • Don't lift things that weigh more than 10 pounds.
    • Don't push or pull heavy things.

    Walk every day. Follow the guidelines the doctor or cardiac rehabilitation specialist gives you. Unless you've been told not to, you can climb stairs.

    Your doctor will let you know when it's OK to drive again, usually within a month or so after surgery. It may be sooner if the surgeon did the operation with a just a small cut. There's no need to wait to ride as a passenger.

    Diet

    Healthy food choices help the healing process. Your doctor will let you know if you should have or avoid specific things.

    You may not feel like eating for a while after your surgery. Try smaller meals, more often.

    If your appetite doesn't return within a few weeks, bring this up with your doctor.

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