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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: Self-Care for Recovery - Topic Overview

What are your responsibilities during your 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.

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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.
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