25 Feb 07
After surgery, the patient is moved to a hospital bed in the cardiac surgical intensive care unit. Heart rate and blood pressure monitoring devices continuously monitor the patient for 12 to 24 hours. Family members can visit periodically. Medications that regulate circulation and blood pressure may be given through the I.V. (intravenously). A breathing tube (endotracheal tube) will stay in place until the physicians are confident that the patient is awake and ready to breathe comfortably on his or her own. The patient may feel groggy and disoriented, and sites of incisions — both the chest and the leg, if a segment of blood vessel was taken from the leg — may be sore. Painkillers are given as needed. Patients usually stay in the hospital at least three to five days and sometimes longer. During this time, some tests will be done to assess and monitor the patient's condition. After release from the hospital, the patient may experience side effects such as: Loss of appetite, constipation Swelling in the area from which the segment of blood vessel was removed Fatigue, mood swings, feelings of depression, difficulty sleeping Muscle pain or tightness in the shoulders and upper back Many of these side effects usually disappear in four to six weeks, but a full recovery may take a few months or more. The patient is usually enrolled in a physician-supervised program of cardiac rehabilitation. This program teaches stress management techniques and other important lessons (e.g., about diet and exercise) and helps people re-build their strength and confidence. Patients are often advised to eat less fat and cholesterol walk or do other physical activity to help regain strength. Doctors also often recommend following a home routine of increasing activity -- doing light housework, going out, visiting friends, climbing stairs. The goal is to return to a normal, active lifestyle. Most people with sedentary office jobs can return to work in four to six weeks. Those with physically demanding jobs will have to wait longer. In some cases they may have to find other employment.