What You Can Expect After Your Heart Surgery

Posted on: 28 January 2015


You've already been through a lot. The weakness and heart pain before surgery, all of the tests and examinations and finally the surgery itself. You're very near the end of this journey. The next phase is cardiac rehabilitation to build up your heart muscle and get you on a lifelong program of heart health. This is a critical part of your recovery. It is what can make the difference between recurring heart problems and a life free from pain in your chest.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Your cardiac care center will design a rehab program just for you. It will ease you into activities to promote a healthy heart in ways that become part of your everyday routine. You'll have a team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and dietitians working with you to make your recovery successful. Most rehab programs are broken into three phases that start in the hospital and continue once you get home.

Step One - Easing Back Into Life

While the staff monitors your heart and the surgical incision, you'll begin some light exercise under supervision. You'll walk short distances and take a few stairs to get your body loosened up after the surgery. It's important in this step to get your circulation flowing but not force your heart to work hard. The heart muscle heals quickly, but overworking it now will slow recovery. This is all done in the hospital where you can be closely supervised. You will take it slowly in this step until your heart doctor approves you to be sent home and ready for the next step.

Step Two - Monitored Exercise

This step lasts for several weeks and is done as an outpatient. The goal is to strengthen your heart muscle, and build up your physical endurance and stamina. You will attend sessions in a cardiac rehab center where you'll use treadmills, exercise bikes and other equipment under supervision. Your blood pressure and pulse will be continuously monitored. Your doctor will set goals for your heart rate to reach as you exercise. You'll visit the rehab center several times a week during this step and your heart rate goal will increase as you progress.

Step Three - Maintenance

This phase establishes a heart health program to follow the rest of your life. You will learn exercise routines to continue doing at home and may be encouraged to join a gym. Some people continue to go to the cardiac rehab exercise center periodically to check on their progress. You'll be given a lot of information on how diet, physical activity, illness, and medications can affect your heart. You'll discuss lifestyle changes that can improve the outlook of your health. Once you've "graduated" from this step, you'll have all of the information you need to prevent ever having heart problems again.