Friday 18 October 2019

Dear Dr Nina: Will my husband's recovery take long after open-heart surgery?

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Q My husband is having open-heart surgery soon and has been told that the recovery can take up to six months. What can we expect?

Dr Nina replies: Being as healthy as possible going into surgery is important. Pre-operative health does have implications for post-op recovery. Those who are obese, smoke and drink excessively are at a higher risk of complications.

Open-heart surgery - although almost fairly routine these days - is major surgery and recovery takes time. In-patient hospital stays are shorter than they used to be, but he will likely spend some time in intensive care before stepping down to a cardiothoracic follow-up ward. He will be very sore in the initial days and weeks and strong painkillers will be required.

Your husband will need to be careful for the first few weeks. Eating well and getting quality rest is important when recovering from surgery as he will likely be very tired. While the wound is healing, someone will need to keep an eye on this and help with dressing changes. Initial recovery from an uncomplicated open-heart surgery takes up to 12 weeks. The bones of the chest can take time to heal and soreness here may persist for some months longer.

Your husband will start physiotherapy in the hospital and continuing the exercises advised is important. Cardiac rehab classes can start about six weeks after surgery and these can be a great help. Some patients feel low after the operation, this ultimately improves in the majority of patients. The good news is your husband and his heart will be healthier.

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