In the hospital
After the surgery, you may be taken to the recovery room and then the intensive care unit (ICU) to be closely monitored. Machines will constantly display your electrocardiogram (ECG) tracing, blood pressure, other pressure readings, breathing rate, and your oxygen level. Coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) requires a hospital stay of at least several days.
You will most likely have a tube in your throat to help with breathing through a ventilator (breathing machine) until you are stable enough to breathe on your own. As you continue to wake up from the anesthesia and start to breathe on your own, your doctor can adjust the breathing machine to allow you to take over more of the breathing. When you are awake enough to breathe completely on your own and you are able to cough, your doctor will remove the breathing tube. In most cases, the breathing tube is removed soon after the operation, usually the same day or by early the next morning. Your doctor will also remove the stomach tube at this time.
After the breathing tube is out, a nurse will help you cough and take deep breaths every couple of hours. This will be uncomfortable due to soreness, but it's very important that you do this to keep mucus from collecting in your lungs and possibly causing pneumonia. Your nurse will show you how to hug a pillow tightly against your chest while coughing to help ease the discomfort.
The surgical incision may be tender or sore for several days after a CABG procedure. Take a pain reliever for soreness as recommended by your doctor. Aspirin or certain other pain medicines may increase the chance of bleeding. Be sure to take only recommended medicines.
Your doctor may deliver medicines through the IV to help your blood pressure and your heart, and to control any problems with bleeding. As your condition stabilizes, they will gradually decrease and then stop these medicines.
Once your doctor removes the breathing and stomach tubes and you are stable, you may start to drink liquids. You can gradually include more solid foods as you can tolerate them. Your nurse will help you sit up on the side of the bed and dangle your feet. If you are able to do this, the nurse will help you sit up for a while in a chair.
When your doctor determines that you are ready, you will be moved from the ICU to a post-surgical nursing unit. Your recovery will continue there. You can gradually increase your activity as you get out of bed and walk around for longer periods. This helps prevent complications from the surgery such as pneumonia or blood clots in your legs. You can eat solid foods as soon as you can tolerate them.
A member of your care team will arrange for you to go home and schedule a follow-up visit with your doctor.
Once you are home, it will be important to keep the surgical area clean and dry. Your doctor will give you specific bathing instructions. Your doctor will remove the stitches or surgical staples during a follow-up office visit, if they were not removed before leaving the hospital.
Don't drive until your doctor tells you it's OK. You may have other activity restrictions.
Tell your doctor if you have any of the following:
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as advised by your healthcare provider
Redness, swelling, or bleeding or other drainage from any of the incision sites
Increase in pain around any of the incision sites
Rapid or irregular pulse
Swelling in the legs
Numbness in the arms and legs
Persistent nausea or vomiting
Your doctor may give you other instructions after the procedure, depending on your situation.
When your recovery time ends, your doctor may suggest that you start a cardiac rehab (rehabilitation) program. This helps you get back to a normal lifestyle. Cardiac rehab starts in the hospital with simple walking. It goes on to help you with a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet. Making the committing to healthier habits can prevent heart problems in the future.