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Recovery After Open Heart Surgery



After many heart operation procedures, surgeries far and wide offer stimulant drugs that are given to the patient in order to wake them immediately after the surgical incision is closed. Other hospitals allow their patients to wake gradually and naturally; preventing any further stress to the heart. Many believe that waking suddenly can have a negative impact on the heart, so in cases of severe illness and a deteriorated state, this should be avoided.

The patient is soon transported to the recovery area, (usually a cardiac or surgical intensive care unit). This after-care period is extremely important to aid successful recovery. The environment in which the patient is housed is a critical care unit, vital in providing concentrated care from a single nurse or group of specific nurses which ensures constant monitoring and attention. During this stage, a ventilator continues to be used to help the patient to breathe under sedation.

A single tube or a number of large tubes are inserted into the chest, particularly where the incisions were made. This assists in the removal of any excess blood which can potentially collect around the heart tissue. A hefty IV named Swan-Ganz will also be placed into position, enabling the medical team to observe crucial heart functions and also to infuse any medication which the patient may require.

When the patient becomes fully conscious following the recovery from anesthesia, the breathing tubes are removed through a process known as extubation. After this process is complete, the patient will be fully dependant on their own breathing. Instantly after extubation, extra oxygen is sometimes provided through the nasal passages to compliment breathing. Oxygen intensities and inhalation will be assessed rigorously and if the patient finds it difficult to breathe efficiently without aid from the ventilator machine, a breathing tube will be put into place once more.

Once the patient is awake and breathing without assistance, intense rehabilitation will begin. This usually encompasses exercising such as moving from a sitting position to a standing position, then from a standing position to walking to a chair and seating. The patient will follow instructions on appropriate ways of moving to minimalize pain while protecting the area of the incision. Strong painkillers are also issued at this stage.

Patients recovering from heart surgery will usually be kept under supervision in the intensive care unit for a minimum of 24 hours. All chest tubes are then detached within 48 hours after surgery, shortly followed by transfer to a step-down machine. It is common for patients to experience a significant reduction in pain after the chest tubes have been detached.

Heart surgery must not be seen as a cure for heart disease, but a treatment which is widely successful. If instructions from the GP aren’t followed after receiving heart surgery, such as requirements to improve diet or quit smoking, coronary heart disease may return, once again blocking the arteries to the heart.

After returning home, patients may need rehabilitation to help build strength. There are a number of facilities that specialize in rehabilitation programs for private heart surgery patients. There is also the option of receiving assistance from a physical therapist depending on requirements.