Type of Surgery

When Will Life Be Normal After Open Heart Surgery Recovery?

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Last updated: 06/04/2009

When Will Life Be Normal After Open Heart Surgery Recovery?
Because the process can take so long, you may think that life will never be normal again after open heart surgery. You may be right. It will likely be better than it was before the surgery. People that require open heart surgery are usually very ill. They cannot exert themselves without becoming winded or having crushing pain in the chest. Once they recover from open heart surgery, patients find that they are able to do things that they had not done in decades. However, getting from open heart surgery to this great new life takes a good deal of recovery. Going slow and steady during open heart surgery recovery will help you achieve and maintain the full benefits of the procedure for many years to come.
Only your surgeon can tell you how soon you can resume normal activities, but this article describes the milestones of open heart surgery recovery that most people face. Knowing these temporary limitations can help you prepare for them before the procedure. Your breastbone (sternum) was cut in two and tied back together during the open heart procedure, this area needs plenty of rest in order to heal properly. We routinely ignore how many activities require the chest muscles. Essentially all lifting with the arms involved the chest at least a little. You will not be able to lift anything greater than ten pounds for some time after the procedure. This also means you should not pull or push anything that exceeds that weight either. How do you know if something weighs ten pounds? Most bags of sugar or flour are five pounds—two of them together are not terribly heavy. This ten pound limit may exist for six to eight weeks so that your breastbone can fully heal. Many people find this is the most difficult restriction placed on them during open heart surgery recovery.
On the other hand, exercising your lower body is an excellent way to stay active and healthy. Do only as much as you can, such as an evening walk or a few minutes on a stationary bike. As your recover, increase the level of exertion. Many people that are recovering from open heart surgery are pleasantly surprised at the amount of activity their hearts will allow them to do. A new valve or new coronary arteries have a way of restoring a level of physical fitness that many have not achieved in years.
With all of this exercise, you may be wondering about bathing. Showers are okay, full submersion in a tub of water is not advised during open heart surgery recovery. Gently wash any surgical wound areas. Remember that new skin is forming. The area may feel itchy, but the skin is delicate. The more times you break open the skin, the longer it takes to heal and the worse the surgical scar may appear when it has healed. Wash, but do not scrub.
Finally, restrictions on driving a car seem to surprise most people that are recovering from open heart surgery. While you can ride in a car immediately after surgery, driving a car should be avoided for the first six weeks after surgery. Many people find this difficult to follow and endure, but it is quite important. Remember to discuss this and all other aspects of open heart surgery recovery with your surgeon.

Last Updated: 06/04/2009

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