How To Recover from a Heart Bypass Operation

The Late Show's David Letterman, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire's Regis Philbin and former US President Bill Clinton are some of the most powerful men in their own fields, but they have one thing in common. They all went under the knife in an operation known as Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) or simply heart bypass. Fortunately, you don't need to be a talk show host or the next president to survive the aftermaths of such an intensive operation.

A heart bypass is a surgical procedure used to relieve the arteries of the heart of fatty deposits, reducing risks of a coronary artery disease. It was first performed in mammals in 1960 at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Bronx Municipal Hospital Center in a team of surgeons led by Dr. Robert Goetz. The procedure may be intricately-filled with huge surgical terms but basically when a person has had three arteries repaired, it is then called a triple bypass, four arteries called quadruple bypass and in the case of David Letterman, a quintuple bypass was performed.

Painstaking pre- and post-operational preparations are given to the patient, making heart bypass one of the most intricate surgeries today. So how does one recover after such a surgery?

After at least seven days of staying at the hospital, patients may have varying speeds of recovery though doctors say full recovery can be expected within 12 weeks. The good news is, according to statistics, roughly about 80% of CABG survivors show no further complications after the surgery and live a normal life thereafter.

The first thing to consider is to take care of your wound. After around six weeks, the stitches would finally dissolve on its own all you need to do is to avoid any harsh contacts to it and keeping it clean. Don't worry because this scar, however long and reddish it may seem at first, would eventually fade like nothing happened on your skin.

Post-operative side effects include general surgery complications and some other risks unique to CABG such as sepsis, Deep Vein Thrombosis, chronic pain at incision areas, Myocardial infarction due to embolism, acute renal failure and in some cases, stroke or even death.

You may be advised by your attending surgeon or physician to take some regulatory medications and mild exercises to cope with it. The goal is to adjust to the suggested lifestyle changes like having a balanced diet and a healthy routine. Physically demanding work or chores should be avoided for up to six weeks or depending on your doctor. You may also experience sudden mood swings, loss of appetite, constipation, muscle pains, sleeping problems, etc. There are existing local support groups over the Internet like AHealthyMe, Heart2Hearts, Americanheart, that can help you through recovery. They host forums and Q&As to help address surgery and non-surgery related issues. But most importantly, there is no greater support than the support from loved ones and family at such difficult times.


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