All You Need to Know About Open Heart Surgery

All You Need to Know About Open Heart Surgery

All You Need to Know About Open Heart Surgery

Open heart surgery can sound scary but advances in medical and surgical techniques ,have made the procedures much safer reducing the life-threatening risks to some extent. Even a few years, back open heart surgery really meant cutting out your chest cavity and exposing the heart to perform surgery on it which involved many risks. All You Need to Know About Open Heart Surgery

   5 Things You Should Know About Open Heart Surgery

At present surgeons use minimally invasive techniques so that they do not require making large incisions on your chest, except in a few cases where a heart or valve transplant is involved. 

If you are a heart patient waiting for open heart surgery, there are certain things you need to keep in your mind to avoid getting nervous and staying calm on your surgical bed.

Risks for open-heart surgery:

Open Heart surgery can often have adverse effects making it risky.

  • Patients with obesity or diabetes can experience wound infection or those who’ve had a CABG before.
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Kidney or lungs failure
  • Fever
  • Fuzziness or difficulty in recalling memories
  • Blood clot or severe blood loss
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Pneumonia


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What you should expect after heart surgery?

Once you regain consciousness after the surgery, you will have two or three tubes attached to your chest to help you drain fluid from the area around your heart. There can be intravenous (IV) lines in your arm to supply you with fluids, and a catheter (thin tube) in your bladder to remove urine. You will be kept in the ICU for at least one day and then moved to a regular cabin. 

Will you have a scar?

Whether you like it or not there will be some scars. Do not frown over it, because your life is more important than having a mark left on your chest forever. There will be a 6-12 cm cut with your open heart surgery, and 2-6 cm will be associated with smaller incisions.

Incision care:

Incision sites are delicate so you can catch infections at any moment. General rules for incision care include:

  • Keep your incision sites warm and dry
  • Always wash your hands before and after touching the site
  • You can only take shower if your incision is healing properly. If there is drainage avoid contact with water.
  • Use warm water for the shower and make sure you take no longer than 10 minutes
  • Make sure water doesn’t directly hit your incision site
  • Regularly check your incision site to see if there is any sign of infection

Symptoms of Incision infection:

Infection on the incision site can become dangerous if you do not take immediate action.

  • Increased drainage or oozing
  • opening from the incision site
  • Redness around the incision
  • Burning or warmth along the incision line
  • Fever

Pain management:

After complicated heart surgery, the patient stays in a sensitive condition which can often lead to other physical issues like pain in the muscles, throat, incision sites or in chest tubes. In this case, the doctor will prescribe pain medication to be taken at home after you are discharged from the hospital.

However, if you experience symptoms like increased fatigue or difficulty breathing you must report your doctor. If you feel any abnormal pain or other symptoms that should have been relieved by your medicine but getting worse with time you should inform your doctors immediately.

Sleeping well:

Sleep is a natural healer. Though heart patients may find it difficult to sleep, it is important to get as much rest as possible. Follow these rules to get better sleep:

  • Swallow your pain-reducing pills half an hour before bed
  • Ask someone to arrange your pillows to decrease muscle strain
  • Do not have tea or coffee in the evenings

How to combat anxiety:

In the past, people were too concerned about the after-effects of heart surgery. Many people had this idea that open heart surgery can hamper mental functioning leading to post-surgical depression, anxiety, and frustration. 

The majority of heart patients who had experienced anxiety were mainly due to their aging.  In general heart surgery doesn’t cause any decline in mental functioning, but there will always be some exceptions. Some people do experience depression or anxiety after open-heart surgery but a therapist or psychologist can help heart patients to overcome these effects.


Heart Surgery patients need to be extra cautious about their health. To feel the benefits of heart surgery, it is necessary that you follow your doctor’s recommendations and advice.  Here are some general rules you can follow to help improve your heart health:

  • eating a nutritional and balanced diet to keep you healthy
  • cutting back on foods high in salt, fat, and sugar to control the level of cholesterol
  • leading a more active lifestyle
  • avoiding smoking
  • keeping blood pressure in control

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When you can return to Work?

This entirely depends on your physical condition. The time for returning to your normal life may vary individually. It will take about 3 weeks for a patient to recover who have undergone minimal valve incision surgery. Again some may recover faster than this or slower depending on your fitness level. Patients with traditional open heart surgery may need between 8 to 10 weeks to recover.

However, once you return to your workplace do not take too much stress. Move at your own pace, set an easy and lighter work schedule, and then increase your hours gradually.

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How often should you get involved in other activities?

Your doctor will definitely provide you guidelines on your activity level before you leave the hospital. Here are some general rules that you must follow:

  • Never try to do everything at once. It is better to equally divide your activities throughout the day
  • Take a slow walk everyday
  • Don’t stand  still in one fixed place for more than 15 minutes
  • Do not lift heavy weights more than 10 pounds
  • Do not push or pull heavy objects otherwise it may cause heavy strains on your heart
  • Pause to rest if you become fatigued
  • Stay extra cautious while brushing your teeth or combing your hair. At this stage, it won’t be good for you to hold your arms above shoulder level for longer.
  • Do not stretch your arms up or side-wise for too long to reach out to something that is far away from you
  • Get enough sleep
  • Consult your surgeon if you have any questions

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