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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: The Recovery Process

Topic Overview

Each person's recovery from coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is a little different. Your road to recovery has many steps, including time in the hospital, time at home, and participation in a rehabilitation program.

You will hear a common theme during your recovery: Everyone heals at a different pace. Recovery from CABG surgery is a long process. And your experience may be a little different than the typical course discussed below.

The first few days after surgery

After your CABG surgery, you will still be unconscious, or asleep. You will probably be taken to the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) or surgical ICU before you wake up. This unit has specially trained hospital staff that will watch your condition very closely.

When you no longer need to be watched so closely, you will be moved to another area of the hospital called a step-down unit or cardiac recovery floor.

In the hospital before going home

You will recover in the step-down unit of the hospital until your doctors feel it is safe for you to go home. You must demonstrate that you are capable of performing basic daily activities like walking and sitting upright. Staff in the step-down unit will also help you begin your rehabilitation and educate you on how to take care of yourself when you return home.

At home

You may return home a few days after your CABG surgery. But it may take several months before you can return to all of the activities you enjoyed prior to surgery. Your doctor will help you plan your recovery and will also tell you what activities you can and cannot do during your recovery.

Recovery from major surgery has both physical and emotional aspects. How fast you recover physically will depend on your health before CABG surgery. You will probably have some pain. You may also feel frustrated, angry, or lonely. It is important that you have emotional support from friends, family, and medical staff during your recovery.

What you have to do during your recovery

There are several things you have to do while you are recovering from 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.

Have a healthy lifestyle

Ways you can keep your heart and body healthy include:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Be active.
  • Lower your stress level.

You can benefit from both medical support and emotional support to help you make important changes in your lifestyle. Your doctors, nurses, rehabilitation team members, friends, and family can help you.

These lifestyle changes that you make after your CABG surgery will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Related Information

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Morris DC, et al. (2011). Management of the patient after cardiac surgery. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst’s The Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1504–1512. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last Revised April 6, 2012

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