Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: What to Expect After You Go Home
Although you may return home a few days after the completion of your
coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) procedure, it may take several months
before you can return to all of the activities you enjoyed prior to surgery.
Recovery from major surgery has both physical and emotional aspects.
For the first month or two after you are discharged from the
hospital, you will be working to return to your presurgical level of activity.
Your doctor will set goals for you to reach and will place restrictions on
activities that would slow your recovery.
Physical aspects of recovery
The pace of your physical recovery will depend significantly on your
health before you received bypass surgery. For example, if you had coronary
artery disease (CAD) but no other medical conditions, it will probably take you
less time to resume a normal activity level than if you are older or have other
Your recovery will take at least 4 to 6 weeks. During your recovery
from CABG surgery, your life will probably be quite different from how it was
before your surgery. The table below lists "normal" physical conditions after
During CABG surgery recovery
It is normal to:
What can I do?
Not have much of an appetite.
The thought of food makes you feel nauseated, or you cannot
Be patient. Your appetite will soon be
back to normal.
Eat healthy foods.
Try eating frequent,
Have swelling in your arm or leg where blood vessels were
You have incisions there as well as missing blood vessels
that your surgeon used to bypass your coronary arteries.
Keep your swollen arm or leg elevated.
Wear support hose if ordered by your doctor.
doctor if it doesn't improve.
Have difficulty sleeping.
You are in pain and/or are not very physically
Take your pain medicine before you go
Try not to take naps during the day.
Have sore or tight muscles in your shoulders and upper
You were in the same position during your surgery and early
Take your pain
Try warm, moist packs and massage.
Have a lump over your incision.
Your skin and muscle are healing.
Watch for signs
of infection: redness, discharge, fever, and pain.
It is a side effect of some medicines, and/or you are not
very physically active.
Eat more fruits and foods with
Ask your doctor to recommend a laxative.
Emotional aspects of recovery
Recovering from CABG surgery means not only getting back your
physical strength but also your emotional and mental well-being. The fatigue
and pain you might be experiencing may make you feel depressed. You may:
Have mood swings.
Feel afraid or anxious.
Not be able to
Have good days and bad days.
Also, limitations on your physical activity can leave you with few
options to get out of the house and clear your head.
You should be aware that these feelings of depression are common for
people who have had major heart surgery. You may also feel lonely and envious
of other people who are living their lives without the discomfort and pain that
you are experiencing right now.
Remember that you are going to start feeling better very soon. You
are working to get back to your life—a life that may be more comfortable than
before. Your new life is one with bypassed coronary arteries and more blood
flowing to your heart. What this means for you is that you will not experience
the chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms that you had before.
It can be important to keep your family and friends around you during
your recovery. They can go on walks with you or just sit and chat. You can ask
your family or friends to put your children, grandchildren, or pets in your lap
so you can feel close to them. Even though you need to be careful of your chest
wound, you should continue to be affectionate with your family and friends.
Affection can improve your mood and make you feel less lonely.
If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor. The sooner you know if you are depressed, the sooner you can get treatment. Treating depression is good for your health. You doctor may refer you to another doctor who diagnoses and treats depression.
Your recovery at home after CABG surgery can be both physically and
emotionally demanding. Knowing what to expect and what you can do to help your
recovery can make it easier.
Hillis LD, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA guideline for coronary artery bypass graft surgery: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 124(23): e652–e735.
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.