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Recovery from Heart Surgery: The First Few Weeks

During the first few weeks after heart surgery, you’ll be regaining your energy and strength. Your healthcare provider will let you know what you can and can’t do as you get better. Take things slowly and rest when you get tired.

Walking

Walking is one of the easiest and best ways to help yourself get better. When you walk, your legs pump blood to your heart. This improves blood flow throughout your body. Choose a safe place with a level surface. A local park or a mall are good choices. Start by walking for 5 minutes. Walk a little longer each day. Walking with a friend will make the time more enjoyable.

Man and woman outdoors, walking.

Driving

Your reflexes will be slow for a while. Also, some of your medicines can make you drowsy. Let others drive until your surgeon says you can drive again. When you are in a car, wear your seat belt.

Lifting

For the first  to 6 weeks, don’t lift more than 10 pounds 94.5 kg). Your healthcare provider may give you specific limits on how much you can lift.

Showering

You may feel weak the first few times you shower at home. Ask someone to stand nearby in case you need help. Don't use very hot water. It can affect your blood flow and make you dizzy.

Working

Your healthcare provider can advise you about the best plan for returning to work. You may be able to return part-time to a desk job 6 weeks after your surgery. If you have a more active job, check with your surgeon.

Making love

Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, you can have sex as soon as you feel comfortable.

Your feelings

It’s common to feel a little depressed or frustrated while healing after major surgery. You might feel cheerful and energetic one day, then cranky and tired the next. You may find it hard to concentrate or to sleep. Or you may not be hungry. These things will get better soon. Don’t withdraw from your family and friends. Keep talking, listening, and supporting each other.

What to watch for

Watch for any signs of infection. These include fever, chills, or redness, drainage, foul smelling odor, or more pain at your incision site. Contact your healthcare provider if any of these occur. 

Your provider will show you how to take your pulse. If you develop a fast, slow, or irregular heart rate, call your provider right away. If you become dizzy and you don't feel better when you sit down, you may have low blood pressure. Have someone take your blood pressure or call your provider.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Mandy Snyder APRN
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2020
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