You had minimally invasive coronary artery bypass surgery on one or more of your coronary arteries. Your surgeon used an artery from your chest to create a detour, or bypass, around arteries that were blocked and could not bring blood to your heart. A 3- to 5-inch-long incision (cut) was made in the left part of your chest between your ribs. This allowed your doctor to reach your heart.
What to Expect at Home
You may be able to leave the hospital 2 or 3 days after surgery. You may also be able to return to normal activities after 2 or 3 weeks.
After surgery, it is normal to:
Have some shortness of breath. This may be worse if you also have lung problems. Some patients may use oxygen when they go home.
Have pain in the chest area around the wound
You may want to have someone stay with you in your home for the first week.
Learn how to check your pulse, and check it every day.
Do the breathing exercises you learned in the hospital for the first 1 to 2 weeks.
Weigh yourself every day.
Shower every day, washing your incision gently with soap and water. Do NOT swim, soak in a hot tub, or take baths until your incision is completely healed. Follow a heart-healthy diet.
If you are feeling depressed, talk with your family and friends. Ask your provider about getting help from a counselor.
Continue to take all your medicines for your heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other conditions you have.
Do not stop taking any medicine without talking with your provider.
Your provider may recommend antiplatelet drugs (blood thinners) -- such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Effient), or ticagrelor (Brilinta) -- to help keep your artery graft open.
If you are taking a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin), you may have extra blood tests to make sure your dose is correct.
Stay active during your recovery, but start slowly. Ask your doctor how active you should be.
Walking is a good exercise after surgery. Don't worry about how fast you walk. Take it slow.
Climbing stairs is okay, but be careful. Balance may be a problem. Rest halfway up the stairs if you need to.
Light household chores, such as setting the table and folding clothes should be okay.
Slowly increase the amount and intensity of your activities over the first 3 months.
Do not exercise outside when it is too cold or too hot.
Stop if you feel short of breath, dizzy, or any pain in your chest. Avoid any activity or exercise that causes pulling or pain across your chest, such as using a rowing machine or weight lifting.
Keep your incision area protected from the sun to avoid sunburn.
Be careful how you use your arms and upper body when you move around for the first 2 or 3 weeks after your surgery. Ask your provider when you may return to work. For the first week after surgery:
Do NOT reach backwards
Do NOT let anyone pull on your arms for any reason -- for instance, if they are helping you move around or get out of bed.
Do NOT lift anything heavier than about 10 pounds (a little more than a gallon of milk).
Avoid other activities in which you need to keep your arms above your shoulders for any period of time.
Do NOT drive. The twisting involved in turning the steering wheel may pull on your incision.
You may be referred to a cardiac rehabilitation program. You will get information and counseling about activity, diet, and exercise.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if:
You have chest pain or shortness of breath that does not go away when you rest.
Your pulse feels irregular -- it is very slow (fewer than 60 beats a minute) or very fast (over 100 to 120 beats a minute).
You have dizziness, fainting, or you are very tired.
You have a severe headache that does not go away.
You have a cough that does not go away.
You are coughing up blood or yellow or green mucus.
You have problems taking any of your heart medicines.
Your weight goes up by more than 2 pounds in a day for 2 days in a row.
Your wound is red or swelling, it has opened, or there is more drainage coming from it.
You have chills or a fever over 101°F.
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Vandvik PO, Lincoff AM, Gore JM, Gutterman DD, Sonnenberg FA, Alonso-Coello P, et al. Primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012;141:e637S-e68S.
Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.