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Although everyone recovers at a different rate, you'll need about six to eight weeks of healing before you can go back to your normal routine. If you have undergone Beating Heart Bypass Surgery and/or endoscopic vein harvesting during your bypass surgery, you may find your recovery to be quicker.
During that time, keep in touch with your doctor and follow his or her instructions. The following post op instruction are provided for your review.
General Post-Operative Instructions
Many questions arise as to what you should do or should not do after discharge. The following are answers to the most common concerns and questions.
Valve Surgery Post-Op Care
Tell any doctor or dentist who treats you that you have had your valve repaired or replaced. They may prescribe antibiotics before procedures, especially dental work, to prevent an infection from settling in your heart.
It is likely that you will be taking Coumadin, an anticoagulant, commonly called a "blood thinner." Coumadin causes blood to take a longer time to form a clot.
There are several points you should know about Coumadin:
Recovering from Open Heart Surgery is a Family Affair
Open heart surgery is an event that affects the patient, spouse, children, and significant others. It is similar to the ripple effect in a pond when a stone is dropped. Many waves occur before the pond eventually calms. In addition to the physical recovery that the patient undergoes, there is an emotional aspect of adjustment that the patient, as well as family, experience.
Facing the possibility of changing one's lifestyle can be quite overwhelming. Some alterations take place immediately, such as diet changes and smoking cessation. Other changes may be more gradual, such as building up to and maintaining an exercise program, or incorporating long term stress management. Of importance to all those involved is realizing that the patient does have control in initiating the changes and in maintaining healthy new habits. This is the patient's responsibility. Spouses, children, and significant others often struggle with the impossible task of making sure the patient never deviates off course and stays on the "straight and narrow'. Remember, others can assist and encourage, but only the patient can do!
Many lifestyle changes that occur as a result of having open heart surgery have a direct impact on the entire household. When a patient is forced to make changes for health reasons, very often all minds start to think along the same lines. This is especially true for others who might possibly be predisposed to coronary artery disease. Therefore, if the recovering patient has stopped smoking, family members who smoke are now motivated to quit. And when meals now need to be prepared in a heart-healthy fashion, chances are those who dine together will also be making these changes out of practicality for the cook resulting from a renewed awareness of the benefits to the heart.
Recovering from open heart surgery creates temporary role changes and responsibility shifts among family members. When the recovering patient returns home, he/she will have temporary physical limitations and dependencies which the family members compensate. The husband will need to shop and carry packages for his recovering wife who can neither drive herself to the store nor lift heavy packages. The son or daughter will have to mow the lawn and take out the garbage for their recovering father, who now has to limit exertion while he rebuilds his strength.
Just as the family needs to coordinate efforts in assisting the patient during his limitation phase, so should they enable him to increase his independence and regain his level of self reliance. This proves to be a very delicate balance and can be a cause of friction. Staying informed of the doctors recommendations on how the patient should progress can minimize the stress of this transitional period for both the patient and family.
Recovery will be a challenge for the open heart surgery patient and his/her family. There will be days of high energy and of fatigue, accomplishments, moments of temptation, feelings of exuberance and even days of feeling blue or angry, all of which are a part of the physical and emotional healing process that takes place.
Remember, recovery takes time. All of those involved will adjust according to their ability to assimilate the lifestyle and role changes which inevitably take place. Sharing your feelings and discussing ongoing issues can make for a smoother transition for all. (Return to Top)
Sex After Surgery
There is a great deal of pleasurable sexual activity that is not sexual intercourse. Being near someone, holding, fondling, caressing, are all activities that enhance closeness and pleasure. Since these activities require very little energy, you may engage in these anytime after discharge from the hospital. Many couples find that this expression of love allows them to return slowly to a full sex life with confidence.
Sexual intercourse requires slightly more energy, therefore a waiting time of 1-3 weeks is generally recommended. Another consideration will be position. As the sternum has been cut, a modification may be necessary in order to prevent injury to the sternum or incisional pain. Exercise will strengthen the heart and overall physical condition. So as you engage in the home walking program and witness firsthand increased endurance and confidence, you will know when you are ready. The energy expenditure for intercourse is the equivalent of walking briskly or climbing two flights of stairs. The heart rate rarely rises above 120 beats/minute and blood pressure elevations are similarly mild and transient.
The person recovering after open heart surgery may be more conscious of his or her heartbeat, breathing, and muscle tension. This awareness is normal and is no cause for alarm.
Fear of performance and general depression are two psychological factors that can greatly reduce sexual interest and capacity. These are considered normal during convalescence and in most cases disappear within 3 months. If depression continues after 3-6 months, professional counseling should be considered.
Various medications may affect sexual drive and/or function. If this occurs, consult your physician. Often a change in medication or dosage can remedy the problem. Never stop taking any prescribed medication without your physician's approval.
Ways to prepare for the resumption of sexual activity:
Some general guidelines: