Recovering From A Broken Heart

20 October 2015
 Categories: , Blog

The chest pain when you exert yourself has become more than just an annoyance. Your heart doctor has suggested replacing one or more of your coronary arteries to increase the blood flow to your heart, before you have a massive heart attack. Recovering from heart surgery is unlike other surgical procedures as it affects everything from your sleep to your emotional state. Here is what to prepare for when recovering from your upcoming heart surgery.

Your Hospital Stay

Immediately after the surgery, you'll spend a day or two in the cardiac care unit being monitored by doctors and nurses trained to take care of your heart. You'll be surrounded by equipment that delivers fluids, medication and oxygen to you. Monitoring equipment measures several vital statistics such as your heart's electrical activity and the level of oxygen in your blood. All of the attention may feel overwhelming but this allows your cardiac care team to take quick action should they detect any issues with your heart after the surgery.

When your heart doctor is satisfied that you're healing normally, you'll go to another, less daunting part of the hospital. The medical team will still watch your heart and healing closely, but here you'll begin preparing to go home. You'll start eating solid foods and begin taking short walks with a physical therapist.

You'll notice some aching in your chest due to the muscles and bones affected during the vein replacement surgery. Tightness and numbness along the incision is normal and will go away in a few days. Pain medication will be available to make you more comfortable. If you have an incision in your leg where a vein was taken for your heart, you may have some pain, stiffness and itching in that area as the healing continues.

When your cardiac doctor is satisfied with your progress, you'll go home for the remainder of your recovery.

Recovering at Home

Once you get home, the focus of your recovery will include:

  • Caring for the surgical incision on your chest and leg.
  • Monitoring your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Gradually returning to your normal daily activities.

Think of your heart as a large muscle that has been injured and you must slowly get it accustomed to working normally again. Your heart has a new blood supply, which prevents you from having the chest pain that you experienced before the surgery. But your heart must get used to having the new blood vessels supplying it with the blood, so you must go easy on your heart as it heals.

What You Can Experience During Your Recovery

As you reacquaint your heart to your daily activities, expect to have one or more of the following experiences:

  • Your doctor may have you take a blood thinner to reduce the risk of blood clots from the heart surgery.
  • You will be on a diet to reduce the risk of fatty deposits in the new blood vessels.
  • You may be enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation program to slowly build up your physical activity levels.
  • Your doctor may have you see a counselor to help manage stress which puts a burden on your heart.
  • You may have difficulty sleeping for several weeks and will need medication to get proper rest.
  • You may feel sad or depressed which normally goes away after the first few weeks.

Recovering from heart surgery is a slow and steady process. You and your mended heart must learn to live together again. By having the surgery, you have avoided major heart issues. Be gentle with yourself during your recovery and celebrate that you now have a healthy heart.

For more information, contact a medical facility like Cayuga Medical Center.