Have you recently had open heart surgery? Or, perhaps your surgery is looming, and you're thinking about what life will be like post-surgery. Well, this article is just for you!
As you already know, this is huge operation, and so the first few weeks after surgery are critical.
Here are 10 things you should (and shouldn't) do after open heart surgery:
#1 Your incision
After open heart surgery, you will have an incision in the center of your chest. If the surgeon used a vein from your leg as a graft, you will also have an incision on your leg. Here are a few tips on incision care:
- Keep the incisions clean and dry
- Wash with a mild soap and warm water
- Pat dry, but don't rub
- Avoid using lotions or ointments
- Check your incisions daily to ensure they are healing properly
You may be wondering what is normal, and what's not normal after surgery — normal findings for a healing incision include:
- Numbness around the incision
- Itching around the incision
- Slight redness
Abnormal findings for a healing incision — these should be reported to your doctor:
- Increased tenderness at the incision site
- Increased redness at the incision site
- Swelling around the incision site
- Drainage coming from the incision site
As always, it's important to take any prescribed medications exactly as your doctor instructs.
If you think you are having a reaction to the medication, report this to your doctor right away, but don't not stop taking your medications without letting them know first.
It's very common to have trouble sleeping after open heart surgery. This may be the result of incision pain, or it may be caused by stress, or other factors relating to your surgery. Regardless, a good night's sleep helps with proper healing.
Here are a few tips to help you get a good nights sleep:
- Take your pain medication half an hour to one hour before bedtime
- Avoid caffeine in the evenings
- Use several pillows to help you get as comfortable as possible
- Listen to some light music, if that helps you relax
You should also try to get a nap/rest in the middle of the day for the first few weeks.
#4 Household chores
Your activity will be limited during the first few weeks.
You can do light household chores if you wish, but standing in one place for longer than 15 minutes isn't recommended. You also shouldn't vacuum or lift heavy items for the first few weeks — so, why not sit back and put your feet up for a change!
You will need to let someone else drive you around for the first 4-6 weeks after your surgery.
Stress can cause your heart rate to increase, which may be dangerous. I know, it isn't always possible, but do try to avoid getting stressed during your recovery period.