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Patient education: Recovery after coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) (The Basics)

Patient education: Recovery after coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) (The Basics)

What happens after coronary artery bypass graft surgery? — After coronary artery bypass graft surgery, or "CABG," your doctor will make a treatment plan with you. The goals of this plan are to:

Treat your coronary heart disease – Even after your CABG, some of the heart's blood vessels can still have areas that are narrow (figure 1). Also, your heart muscle might have been damaged before your CABG. Your doctor's plan can help lower the chances that these problems will affect your life in the future.

Help you feel better and have more energy

How do I take care of my wounds? — Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to take care of any wounds on your chest, legs, or arms. It's important to watch for signs of an infection, especially during the first 2 weeks after your surgery. Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of the following:

Fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C)

New pain or pain that is worse in your chest or around your chest wound

A very fast heartbeat

A wound that is bleeding, draining pus, or has redness around it

Do I need to take medicines? — Yes. Most people need to take at least 2 heart medicines every day. Doctors can prescribe different types of heart medicines. The medicines can help you live longer and prevent blockages in your blood vessels from getting worse. Some also help treat chest pain and other heart symptoms.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes (high blood sugar), your doctor will likely prescribe medicines to treat those conditions.

It's important to take your medicines exactly the way your doctor says. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any side effects or problems with the medicines. You should also let them know if you can't afford your medicines. There are often ways to solve these problems.

What is cardiac rehab? — Cardiac rehab (short for "cardiac rehabilitation") is a program that your doctor might recommend for you. At cardiac rehab, doctors, nurses, and other health professionals teach you how to keep your heart healthy. They will help you:

Exercise safely – Getting regular exercise can help keep your heart healthy. Your doctor or nurse will work with you to make an exercise program that is safe for you. They will tell you how often and how hard to exercise.

Each time you exercise, make sure to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes first. Then you can do "aerobic exercise" for at least 20 minutes. Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and includes activities such as walking, swimming, and jogging. After you work out, make sure to cool down for 5 to 10 minutes.

Improve your diet – Eating the right foods can help keep your heart healthy. Fruits, vegetables, and foods with fiber can help prevent heart disease and strokes (figure 2). Try to avoid eating foods that can make heart disease worse. These include "trans" fats, which are found in many fast foods. "Saturated" fats, which are found in red meats and many cheeses, can also worsen heart disease. Eating a healthy diet also means limiting white sugar.

Lose weight, if you are overweight.

Quit smoking, if you smoke – Stopping smoking can lower your chance of getting or dying from heart disease. To quit, you can try nicotine patches, gum, or nasal sprays. (Nicotine is the main drug in cigarettes.) You can also try a prescription medicine to help stop cigarette cravings.

Cope with feeling sad or worried – Many people feel sad or worried after CABG. Your doctor, nurse, or counselor can help you with these feelings and, if needed, treat your depression.

Reduce the stress in your life – Stress can worsen heart disease.

When can I have sex again? — Check with your doctor about when it is safe to start having sex again. If you had a heart attack, the timing will depend on your heart attack and if you still have symptoms.

After CABG, some people are less interested in sex or do not enjoy sex as much. This can be a side effect of certain heart medicines. It can also happen if people are sad or worried about having a heart attack during sex. If you have problems with sex, let your doctor or nurse know. They might be able to treat those problems.

When can I drive again? — Check with your doctor. They might not want you to drive again until your chest has healed from your surgery.

Which symptoms should I watch for? — It's important to watch for chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack (figure 3). But it is uncommon for people to have a heart attack in the months after CABG.

If you think you might be having a heart attack, call for an ambulance right away (in the US and Canada, call 9-1-1). Do not try to get to the hospital on your own.

More on this topic

Patient education: Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (The Basics)
Patient education: Heart attack (The Basics)
Patient education: Medicines after a heart attack (The Basics)
Patient education: Chest pain (The Basics)
Patient education: Quitting smoking (The Basics)
Patient education: Exercise and movement (The Basics)
Patient education: Diet and health (The Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure in adults (The Basics)
Patient education: High cholesterol (The Basics)
Patient education: Treatment for type 2 diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Sex problems in men (The Basics)
Patient education: Sex problems in women (The Basics)
Patient education: Coping with high drug prices (The Basics)
Patient education: Coronary artery disease (The Basics)

Patient education: Coronary artery bypass graft surgery (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: High cholesterol and lipids (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Diet and health (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Quitting smoking (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure treatment in adults (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Preventing complications from diabetes (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Sexual problems in men (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Sexual problems in women (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Heart attack (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 03, 2022.
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