Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

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

Heart Attack Symptoms: What To Do in an Emergency

Do you know how to recognize heart attack symptoms? A heart attack usually occurs when there is blockage in one of the heart's arteries. This is an emergency that can cause death. It requires quick action. Do not ignore even minor heart attack symptoms. Immediate treatment lessens heart damage and saves lives.

Read the Heart Attack Symptoms: What To Do in an Emergency 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

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
heart rate graph
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
empty football helmet
Article
red wine
Video
 
eating blueberries
Article
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
SLIDESHOW
Omega 3 Sources
SLIDESHOW
 
Salt Shockers
SLIDESHOW
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW