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Side Effects After Open Heart Surgery

A. F. Benvenuto Saturday, July 24, 2010 ,
Open heart surgery is required to repair a number of common heart ailments, including blocked arteries and related heart problems. The procedure is conducted with the aid of a heart-lung machine which carries out important bodily functions while the heart is being operated upon.

While open heart surgery is a very serious type of surgery, it is also one of the most commonly-performed operations in advanced countries and has a very high overall survival rate. Here are some considerations and side effects if you are to undergo surgery:

At The Hospital:
You should not eat or drink within eight hours of the scheduled surgery time. Patients are usually admitted on the morning of the surgery.
After surgery, you will be monitored in the cardiac intensive care unit (ICU) and later on the general floor of the hospital. Hospital stays after surgery are usually 3 to 4 days.

Recovery Times:
Recovery times for full open heart surgery may be 6 to 12 weeks or more. However, recovery for off-pump surgery and minimally-invasive heart surgery may take much less time.

Side Effects After Open Heart Surgery:
People who have undergone or are about to undergo heart surgery are often concerned about the side effects after open heart surgery. Here are some of the most common side-effects, all of which are normal and NOT a cause for alarm in most cases:

  • muscle pain
  • chest pain
  • swelling (especially if you have an incision in your leg from coronary artery bypass grafting, or CABG)
  • loss of appetite: it can take several weeks for your appetite to return
  • diminished sense of taste: your sense of taste will return in time
  • nausea upon smelling food: many patients get nauseous upon smelling food; this is common and will dissipate
  • difficulty sleeping: you may have trouble falling asleep, or you may wake up regularly in the middle of the night; this will get better over time* constipation: take a laxative and add fruits, fiber and juice to your diet
  • mood swings: mild depression is normal during this period
  • swelling, especially when there has been an incision in your leg
  • lump at top of incision: again, this will go away with time
  • clicking noise or feeling in your chest: this, too, will go away on its own; if it gets worse, contact your surgeon
While all of these side effects are normal and should go away with time, do not hesitate to contact your doctor if you are concerned or are facing an emergency.

Medicine Side Effects:
There are also a number of possible side effects after open heart surgery related to the medicines you take for surgery. If you experience any of the following side-effects, you SHOULD contact your physician right away:
  • excessive nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or stomach pain
  • vomiting
  • dizziness or light-headedness when standing up
  • confusion
  • very fast or very slow pulse
  • skin rash
  • unusual burning or bleeding
Self-Care, Including Diet:
It is important to strictly follow your doctor's instructions after surgery concerning your self-care, especially during the first 6-12 weeks after surgery.
One of the most important elements to consider after open heart surgery - both during the recovery period and for the rest of your life - is how you eat. It is important to eat heart-healthy foods, such as those rich in fiber and low in fats.

Most side-effects after heart surgery are completely normal. If you experience any side effects of particular concern that are not outlined here it is essential that you contact your doctor right away. 


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