Heart Disease Living Surgery

Your good health is particularly important after heart surgery, especially open heart surgery. People recovering from open heart surgery often make major lifestyle changes. Your physician will make recommendations to help you avoid heart surgery complications and to speed your recovery.

Health Priorities After Heart Surgery

Your physical and mental health are both at risk after open heart surgery because of the trauma to your body and the conditions that made the surgery necessary in the first place. Managing your mental and physical health after surgery reduces the risks of heart surgery complications.

Your first priorities after heart surgery should be to control stress and to be judicious about engaging in strenuous or isometric physical activity. More than ever, be attentive about your diet and the general maintenance and care of your health.

Immediately After Heart Surgery: Discharge Instructions

Before your breastbone (or sternum) has fully healed, avoid lifting anything weighing more than ten pounds. Avoid pushing and pulling activities that require the intensive use of your arms.

Take care of your incision. Keep it clean, but take showers instead of tub baths and don’t use ointments or lotion on the incision. Alert your doctor to any unusual oozing, redness or warmth.

If your doctor has prescribed elastic pressure stockings, wear them during the day and remove them at night. If your ankles remain swollen, keep wearing the stockings for at least two weeks after heart surgery. They help improve your circulation and keep your legs from swelling.

For the first two weeks after heart surgery, check your weight every morning. If you see signs of weight gain, be sure to let your doctor know.

Make sure you know the difference between angina chest pain and the pain in your chest associated with healing from your open heart surgery. If you experience a form of chest pain and aren’t certain of the source, call your doctor.

Open Heart Surgery Recovery Over the Long Term

To avoid heart surgery complications and stay well over the long term, follow these recommendations:

  • Avoid crossing your legs as you sit in a chair or lie in bed.
  • Get dressed every day and, no matter what you plan to do, schedule at least one daily rest period. Two is preferable.
  • Minimize fatigue by resting when you feel tired and not pushing yourself. You can climb stairs, but avoid using a handrail to pull yourself up.
  • Wait four to six weeks after heart surgery before you resume driving, and when you do, stop frequently to rest your legs and extend them.

You should wait six to eight weeks to return to work after heart surgery, but your doctor can help you decide the recovery period that’s best for your case.


Cleveland Clinic. (2010). Heart surgery recovery. Retrieved November 15, 2010, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/recovery_ohs.aspx

Mid Atlantic Surgical Associates. (2010). Life after open heart surgery. Retrieved November 15, 2010, http://www.heartsurgeons.com/ed5.html