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Once You Get Home
Cathy Murtagh-S...: Hi. My name is Cathy Murtagh-Shaffer, and I work for Shipley Cardiothoracic Center as an advanced provider. I'm part of the Research, Innovation and Education team. These are the things you should know about your surgery. You've had major surgery. It can take as long as eight weeks before you start to feel like yourself again. Don't be surprised if you find you've lost weight in the hospital and that your appetite is suppressed. It will all come back. Many people find themselves on an emotional roller coaster after surgery. It's not unusual to feel tearful, depressed or anxious. Try to breathe through these feelings and they'll pass. This will get better over time. Some of our more senior patients find themselves being excessively forgetful and sometimes confused after surgery. Be patient. This will also pass.
Now onto the most frequently asked questions. Question one: How do I take care of my wound? Clean once or twice a day in the shower. Pat it dry with a clean towel. Do not use lotions, creams or ointments. Do not get into a pool, hot tub or bath until all the scabs are gone or okay by your physician.
Question two: How do I control pain? Use your pain medicine carefully. Try to avoid narcotics during the day. They just make you sleepy and constipated. Save narcotics for bedtime use if you need them. During the day, use Tylenol, Neurontin and Advil if it's okay with your surgeon. Use your heart pillow to support your chest when you cough.
Question three: When can I resume normal activities? If you've had a full sternotomy, what some people might call a zipper on your chest, you should not lift anything greater than eight pounds for six weeks. No weightlifting in the gym for say, six weeks. No pulling, pushing or reaching until cleared at your post-op visit. You've had open heart surgery and your sternum takes about six weeks to heal solid.
Question four: What about driving? Not until you're cleared at your post-op visit and have stopped using all narcotics.
Question five: When is it safe to have sex again? If you can walk briskly for 10 minutes or climb a flight of stairs without pain or shortness of breath, you're probably ready to resume your sexual activities. When you feel ready, use a position that's comfortable and don't over exert. You need to avoid erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra until you're cleared at your post-op visit.
Question six: What about other activities? We encourage you to be up and moving around during the day. This will help to reestablish normal sleep patterns. However, we caution you to wait to resume activities such as tennis, golf or fishing until your wounds are healed and you've been cleared by a physician. We recommend walking daily, go slow and build up to a minimum of a mile.
Question seven: Is it okay to go back to work? We know there are many different occupations. Some can easily be returned to when you're feeling up to it. Others, due to the level of physical exertion necessary, may require you to be out for several weeks. Discuss your return to work date with your provider.
Question eight: What about my diet after surgery? Your immediate post-op diet should consist of lean proteins, such as fish, skinless chicken and beans, as well as fresh salads and vegetables. Avoid the salt shaker, fast food, especially food like KFC and Chick-fil-A, chips, frozen meals and canned food. They all contain high levels of salt.
Question nine: Is it safe to drink alcohol? We recommend avoiding alcohol for four weeks after your surgery. Drinking alcohol while on narcotics is dangerous and can cause an unintentional overdose and drinking alcohol while your body is recovering can slow or impair your recovery question.
Question 10: Can I travel? Not until you're cleared by your provider. We usually recommend a minimum of two weeks after your surgery. If you're traveling by car, it's critical that you make frequent stops every two hours or so to avoid getting blood clots in your legs. If traveling by plane, get up and move around if at all possible.
Question 11: What about other medical procedures? You really should avoid any other type of elective procedures immediately post-op. No vaccines, no dental work, no colonoscopy, no chemo, et cetera, until you're cleared by your providers. I hope this answers your questions that you commonly have, but if you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to call our office. (239) 343-6341.
Pages in this section
- Once You Get Home After Surgery
- After Your MAZE Procedure
- Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
- Cardiac Rehabilitation After Surgery
- Getting Ready for Heart Surgery: Smoking
- How to use the Incentive Spirometer
- Important Things to Manage Before Surgery
- Diabetes and Heart Surgery
- LAA Clip Post-Operative Instructions
- Navigating the Emotional Effects of Heart Disease
- Pharmacy Program: Common Heart Medications
- Post- Operative Extubation
- Taking Care of the Cardiac Patient at Home
- TAVR vs Surgical Valve Replacement
- What to Expect After Open Heart Surgery
- What You Need to Know After Surgery