Post-op Care

The Heart Institute strives to ensure a successful recovery for each and every cardiac surgery patient. And how you care for yourself post-operatively, is just as important as how we care for you. Correctly following our after surgery guidelines is essential to getting back on your feet and enjoying life again.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding at-home recovery.

In addition, you can DOWNLOAD OUR COMPREHENSIVE POST-OP PATIENT GUIDE HERE that offers step-by-step guidance for the days and weeks after surgery.

If at any time you have a question regarding your recovery, call our Nurse Navigator, Nancy Fontana, at 718-226-1603 or your cardiologist’s office.

Going home after open heart surgery

How do I take care of my incisions?

Caring for your incisions requires a nightly shower with a mild, unscented soap. Don’t let the pressure of the shower hit the incision (have your back to the water), but the incisions must get soaped up and rinsed off. There are generally no dressings to change after surgery.

When do my stitches come out?

There are actually no stitches on the main incision, instead you will go home with “steri strips” (little pieces of tape) on the surface of the skin. These will loosen up and come off as you shower. There may be an actual stitch where you had some drains after surgery; these will be taken out by the surgical team prior to discharge or on your postoperative office visit.

Are there any activity restrictions?

After surgery you will not be allowed to lift anything over 10 pounds, drive a car, or use exercise machines. If you have an incision down the middle of your chest you cannot do these things for 2 months. If you had a minimally invasive approach, you cannot do these things for 2 weeks.

You also will be wearing white surgical stockings, called Teds, to prevent swelling of the legs and to prevent blood clots. These go on in the morning and come off at night.

Are there any type of exercises I should do?

It is important to get up and out of bed each day. The main exercise you will be doing is flat level ground walking. Follow the guidelines that were given to you on how much to walk.

You can use stairs as you need to.

You can return to work when your doctor gives you clearance.

You can go out shopping, to eat, etc… as soon as you feel up to it.

When do I see my doctors?

You will need to have follow-up visits with the surgical team, your cardiologist and your primary doctor 1- 2 weeks after you are discharged from the hospital.