While many caregivers often search for an explicit answer to the question, "How long is recovery from heart surgery?", the reality is that no one answer exists. To learn more, please see "How long did it take for you to feel 'Like You' surgery?"
Instead of focusing on a specific timeline for recovery, we encourage caregivers to establish various milestones which demonstrate progress throughout the recovery process.
Prior to discharge, we strongly suggest that you consider how you will function upon your return home.
Remember that your ability to function without assistance may be limited to even the basic, routine elements of daily living – including dressing, showering, eating, sleeping, etc.
For example, many patients who undergo median sternotomy experience ongoing chest soreness after leaving the hospital. While pain medications (including Vicodin) are prescribed, many patient chose to use a recliner during the early recovery to lessen the pain.
Other considerations for patients include:
Upon discharge from the hospital, you will most likely receive select instructions for patients after heart valve surgery.
These instructions may include:
- Limits on amount of weight to be lifted
- Use of prescription medicines for pain and sleep
- Instructions for Coumadin and PTINR testing
- Timeframe for reengaging in sexual activity
- Causes for concern
- Incentive spirometer use
- Coughing exercises
- Pain scale awareness
- Nutrition counseling
- Restrictions on driving, work, alcohol consumption
- Incision care with gels, creams and ointments
Research suggests that between 30%-50% of heart valve surgery patients experience cardiac depression. Dr. R. Scott Mitchell, professor of cardiovascular surgery at Stanford. "I think the cause is entirely unknown, but it could be the psychological effect of anticipating the surgery; the prolonged time under anesthesia, which is about four or five hours; or the results of the heart-lung machine."
This can be a very difficult time for patients as they experience worry and feelings that something is wrong. For many people who have had bypass surgery, regaining emotional strength is a tougher challenge than recuperating physically.
In light of this research, please monitor the emotional well-being of the yourself as cardiac depression can occur up to several months after surgery.
To learn more, please watch "Diagnosing and Treating Cardiac Depression" with Dr. Marc Gillinov
As we have learned within our patient community, the use of cardiac rehabilitation for patients after heart surgery is under-utilized even though the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation are praised by patients around the world.
Commenting on the impact of cardiac rehab, Dr. Robert J. Matthews, a cardiologist and internal medicine physician in Los Angeles, notes, "Although cardiac rehabilitation programs are usually thought of as primarily exercise programs, they also offer psychological benefits that tend to help resolve transient depression. With many special medical conditions, other patients who have been through the experience can provide meaningful psychological support."
Prior to surgery, we encourage caregivers to locate an effective cardiac rehabilitation program for their patient.
To further help you learn about the potential ups and downs of heart valve surgery recovery, please consider the following:
- Mederma for incision healing
- Video: Is minimally invasive surgery better for pain and recovery?
- Watch out for that first sneeze!
- Emotional changes after surgery
- When did you start cardiac rehabilitation?
- Special Interview: The importance of cardiac rehab
- Did your heart pound like crazy after surgery?
- Did your sternum or should 'click' after surgery?