Frequently asked questions

What should I avoid after heart surgery?

For the first ten weeks avoid the following, as they can place additional burden on your heart:

  • Heavy lifting or pushing
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Low couches and bean bags are not recommended as you need to push down with your hands to get up
  • Showering is usually better than having a bath for the first few weeks. This is because a bath can be difficult to get out of
  • Car travel is permitted but long distances are not recommended for three to four weeks or when you feel ready
  • Difficult manoeuvres using the arms and shoulders which cause discomfort
  • Extremes of temperature such as hot or cold showers, spas and saunas
  • Sudden exertion
  • Do not eat or drink excessive amounts and continue to follow a low fat diet
  • Do not exercise immediately after a meal
  • Continue to eat a high fibre diet to avoid straining while having a bowel movement
  • Refrain from smoking
  • Excessive physical exercise
  • Situations that cause you undue stress or excitement
  • Aeroplane travel is allowed after a suitable period of time, discuss this with your doctor.

Your body will generally dictate when you are ready to do more; listen to it. If you experience discomfort avoid that particular activity for several days then attempt it again, but at a lesser degree.

What problems will I encounter when I return home?

It is not expected that you will encounter problems once you are home. However, if any of the following occur, please contact your local doctor, surgeon or hospital:

  • Chest pain that is not related to the surgical wound, that is similar to angina, please contact your doctor.
  • Irregular heart beat/palpitations, unless this was present at discharge
  • Heart rate that is markedly slower or faster than previously
  • Persistent temperature - greater than 38°C
  • Rapid weight changes - greater than two kilograms
  • Dizziness or fainting episodes
  • Continued feelings of tiredness or weakness
  • Shortness of breath not associated with exercise
  • Excessive shortness of breath when exercising
  • Nausea or vomiting without an apparent cause
  • Constipation.

Your local doctor, surgeon or hospital can advise you on what to do should any of these things occur. Do not hesitate to ask for help or advice.

When is it safe to drive a car again?

You are advised not to begin driving until six weeks after your discharge. This is because your range of upper body movement will be limited and driving may cause muscle pain and strain on your broken sternum.

Is it safe to return to my own bed?

You can sleep in whatever position is most comfortable for you. The number of pillows you use will depend on how easy your breathing is. It is best to avoid water beds as they are difficult to get on and off and require you to push down with your hands. Keep a small, firm pillow next to you as this will be handy to use for chest support should you sneeze or cough. You will know yourself when you no longer need this.

When can I resume normal activities?

This information is meant to be a guide only. The best indicator is how you feel yourself when performing particular activities. Your doctor and rehabilitation co-ordinators will discuss the best time to resume specific activities such as resuming work and driving a car. Once at home, you can:

  • Shower daily and wash your hair any time
  • Walk at an unhurried pace outdoors
  • Assist with light tasks around the house, for example light dusting and drying the dishes
  • Go to a restaurant, store, cinema
  • Unhurried walk up and down stairs; resting at any point if this makes you tired.

When can I return to work?

The decision of when to return to work should be discussed with your surgeon at your check up. When you return to work is dependent on a number of factors including:

  • What type of work you do
  • The demands of your job
  • What stage in your recovery you are up to
  • Your level of physical stamina.

Wait until you have discussed your options with your surgeon before making any final decisions.