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Heart Disease Health Center

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Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: Day One of Recovery - Topic Overview

Getting out of the intensive care unit

When your condition has improved, you will be transferred from the specialized ward to a normal cardiac care unit, sometimes called a step-down unit. Most hospital step-down units have significantly fewer nurses and monitoring personnel, so you are usually transferred there when:

  • Your breathing tube has been removed.
  • You are able to take medicines orally.
  • Invasive tubes and monitoring requirements are reduced.

Removing the breathing tube

The tube from the ventilator to your lungs helps you breathe during your CABG surgery. Your doctor will remove this tube when you are conscious and able to breathe on your own. Less frequently, you may be completely alert, yet unable to breathe without a ventilator. This means that you have not yet regained enough strength.

Your breathing tube reaches a long way down into your windpipe, so you may need to exhale forcefully to help your respiratory therapist remove it. Even if you have a strong gag reflex, the tube's removal should not cause you to vomit, because the nasogastric tube, also called an NG tube, will have drained any fluids from your stomach out through your nose both during and after surgery.

Taking oral medicines

When your doctor thinks you are ready, your NG tube will be removed and you should be able to swallow food as well as medicines. A major step in your recovery is switching from intravenous (by IV line) to oral (by mouth) medicines. The ability to do this shows that you are fully conscious and are at a certain level of medical independence. Your IV line will remain in even though you are able to take pills.

Removing other tubes and monitors

You will have several tubes and monitors placed in and around your body to monitor your progress during recovery. Careful monitoring is needed after surgery to check for complications. Within a few days after you begin your recovery, these tubes are usually removed. This shows that your recovery is moving forward and you don't need to be watched as closely.

You may no longer need the urinary catheter that was placed in your bladder. When you are in the step-down unit, you may be able to move in and out of bed. Using a bathroom or bedpan to urinate may be more practical and comfortable.

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Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery: Day One of Recovery Topics

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