Heart surgery, no matter how big or small the procedure is, can be a worrying process to go through as a patient. Whether it’s as small as a keyhole procedure to repair a damaged aortic valve, or something as critical as open-heart surgery, there are things that you should prepare for after surgery – what to expect during recovery and what is normal for a heart patient to experience after such operations. Here are a few things that you look out for after your procedure.
Heart surgery is a major procedure, and recovery time can be different for everyone, depending on a few factors like the operation you’ve had, your age, or your general health. After surgery when you’re recovering at home, you may be encouraged to do some light activity such as walking. The activity level should be gently increased in duration and intensity as you recover and slowly begin to improve. This will help you to get back to living a full and active lifestyle. If you have a job that means sitting at a desk, or doesn’t include a lot of rigorous movement, you should be able to return to work in around three to six weeks. In contrast, if your job is demanding, the return to work may be longer depending on how recovery goes.
Mood or personality changes
No matter what kind of heart surgery you have, it can be a worrying time for you and your family. Because of this, a lot of patients can suffer from stress and anxiety due to the possible effects the surgery may have. Medication can also cause symptoms in patients, such as low mood and fatigue. If patients find themselves suffering from mood swings or feeling down, checking in with a doctor is essential so that they can advise and adjust medication if needed.
Heart surgery can mean that sleeping can become difficult and uncomfortable. Finding a position that feels comfortable can be hard, but solutions like a chest pillow or simply trying your best to sleep on your back can help. It is not uncommon to experience nightmares after surgery, but they should subside with time. It is important that you get enough sleep to aid the healing process, so finding a comfortable position is key to getting good rest.
Another issue that you may experience after heart surgery is brain fog. There are a couple of different reasons that this can occur, but it is mostly a short-term problem that will improve as the recovery process goes on. If you were put on a pump during a bypass, you may suffer from something called ‘pump head syndrome’ – which can cause problems with concentration, and attention span. Cognitive training can be useful when it comes to rehabilitation to improve this. As time goes on, brain fog can improve in line with post-op recovery.
Not wanting to eat after heart surgery is common. It is not well understood why the loss of appetite happens, but doctors believe that it could be down to the fact emotions change after surgery and the effect that feeling sad or down has no appetite. Usually, this feeling will improve after a couple of weeks, but making sure that you eat little and often, even if you don’t feel like it, is important to build your strength back up and keep your body healthy and hydrated.