Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: The Recovery Process

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Coronary Artery Bypass Graft Surgery: The Recovery Process

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Each person's recovery from coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is a little different. Your road to recovery has many steps, including time in the hospital, time at home, and participation in a rehabilitation program.

You will hear a common theme during your recovery: Everyone heals at a different pace. Recovery from CABG surgery is a long process, and your experience may be a little different than the typical course discussed below.

Your road to recovery

Time period

You will be:

After CABG surgery

In the cardiac or surgical intensive care unit.

After a few days

In the step-down unit or on a cardiac recovery floor.

After about a week

At home.

After about a month and a half

Attending a cardiac rehabilitation program.

During your entire CABG experience

Modifying your lifestyle to help keep your heart, lungs, and arteries healthy.

The first few days after surgery

After your CABG surgery, you will still be unconscious, or asleep. You will probably be taken to the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) or surgical ICU before you wake up. This unit has specially trained hospital staff that will watch your condition very closely.

Once you don't need to be watched so closely, you will be moved to another area of the hospital called a step-down unit or cardiac recovery floor.

In the hospital before going home

You will recover in the step-down unit of the hospital until your doctors feel it is safe for you to go home. You must demonstrate that you are capable of performing basic daily activities like walking and sitting upright. Staff in the step-down unit will also help you begin your rehabilitation and educate you on how to take care of yourself when you return home.

At home

Although you may return home a few days after your CABG surgery, it may take several months before you can return to all of the activities you enjoyed prior to surgery. Your doctor will help you plan your recovery and will also tell you what activities you can and cannot do during your recovery.

Recovery from major surgery has both physical and emotional aspects. How fast you recover physically will depend on your health before CABG surgery. You will probably have some pain. You may also feel frustrated, angry, or lonely. It is important that you have emotional support from friends, family, and medical staff during your recovery.

What you have to do during your recovery

There are several things you have to do while you are recovering from CABG surgery, including:

  • Caring for your wounds.
  • Taking your medications.
  • Monitoring your weight.
  • Improving your heart and lung health.
  • Attending cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Making changes in your lifestyle.

For the rest of your life

Your doctor probably told you that certain things you do are bad for the health of your heart and lungs. Now that you have had your diseased arteries repaired with open-heart surgery, you want to make sure your coronary artery disease doesn't get worse.

Ways you can change your lifestyle after CABG surgery include:

  • Improving your heart and lung health.
    • Quit smoking.
    • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
    • Exercise.
    • Lower your stress level.
  • Having a strong medical support network and your own emotional support network to help you make important changes in your lifestyle. Your doctors, nurses, rehabilitation team members, friends, and family can help you.

These lifestyle changes that you make after your CABG surgery will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last Revised August 23, 2010

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