Coronary Artery Bypass Graft - Recovery

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What was recovery like after your coronary artery bypass graft procedure?

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How do patients recover after CABG surgery?

Sutures are removed from the chest prior to discharge and from the leg (if the saphenous vein is used) after 7 to 10 days. Even though smaller leg veins will take over the role of the saphenous vein, a certain degree of swelling (edema) in the affected ankle is common. Patients are advised to wear elastic support stockings during the day for the first four to six weeks after surgery and to keep their leg elevated when sitting. This swelling usually resolves after about six to eight weeks. Healing of the breastbone takes about six weeks and is the primary limitation in recovering from CABG surgery. Patients are advised not to lift anything more than 10 pounds or perform heavy exertion during this healing period. They are also advised not to drive for the first four weeks to avoid any injury to the chest. Patients can return to normal sexual activity as long as they minimize positions that put significant weight on the chest or upper arms. Return to work usually occurs after the six week recovery, but may be much sooner for non-strenuous employment.

Exercise stress testing is routinely done four to six weeks after CABG surgery and signals the beginning of a cardiac rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation consists of a 12 week program of gradually increasing monitored exercise lasting one hour three times a week. Patients are also counseled about the importance of lifestyle changes to lower their chance of developing further CAD. These include stopping smoking, reducing weight and dietary fat, controlling blood pressure and diabetes, and lowering blood cholesterol levels.

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Comment from: Chuck, 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: October 29

I'm a wheelchair bound type II diabetic who had been through 3 chemical stress tests and 3 angiograms before a cardiologist finally said, 'you can't fix this with stents'. I had 2 others tell me that I had 2 and 3 blockages respectively, but they wanted to consult with other doctors before doing stents. Thank goodness this third doctor and the associated surgeon took on my case. I had my coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure on May 15th. My surgeon's partners all advised him not to do my surgery due to my immobility, neurological disease, diabetes, and obesity, but this doctor was fantastic. My recovery was absolutely awful. I've had numerous surgeries in the past, even life-saving emergency surgeries, but never before have I been in such absolute pain and felt as helpless as I did after the CABG. I was a serious athlete when I was younger, and now I couldn't move my arms! They didn't warn me about that, or the constant tearing and rebuilding of the entire chest wall of muscles as you start to use your arms again. I'm writing this in late October and I can still feel a tiny bit of play in my upper sternum that worries and bothers me from time to time, however after the Summer is over I'm happy to report I can once again lift my 3 youngest grandchildren and that makes me happy. I've also lost over 55 lb. since the first time I saw the new cardiologist in January of this year, and have not used a single shot of insulin (I was using long and short acting insulin prior to the surgery), and my A1C has gone down 2 entire points. I'm thriving, but the first couple of months were horrible, I won't lie about it.

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Comment from: LPN., 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: July 14

In 2008 I had my first stent due to unstable angina. Three years later I had a heart attack affecting two major arteries and was stented. The following three years seemed as though I could almost mark the date of when my LAD (left anterior descending artery) was blocking again. Recently I had symptoms and thought it early as I had just had my LAD ballooned so nothing could happen that fast. Wrong! I had all my usual symptoms and a frightening added one. Driving on my way to work, my lower arm and hand became numb. I tried to shake it off without success. Then one side of my face became numb. Catheterization showed an 85 percent block after only 6 months. The other stents were good so I was told I had an unlucky LAD and would needs bypass surgery. The surgery was a harrowing experience, I think. Fortunate to have little memory of some of the worst. I returned home (a month ago). All seemed to be going well. Then I had MRSA in my incision site. Painful, scary and was on an oral equivalent of an IV medicine called Zyvox. For me the side effects were very unpleasant. The MRSA has improved. Then at age 60, vaginal bleeding (which is from the stress on one's body). Then a urinary infection and thrush. Now at week 5 those extras are either gone or healing. I cannot wait to see what it will be like full force with my heart working the best it has in 7 years. I finally start rehabilitation next week. No depression. I never thought I would live until 60.

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