Chief-CTVS, Max Delhi & NCR Hospital
There has always been a widespread perception that one of the scariest parts of any surgical experience is the pain and discomfort following surgery. Well, here is the good news. Things have radically changed thanks to the adoption of advanced minimally invasive techniques in most of our open heart patients. Even the sickest, elderly and frail patients can now enjoy a fast and uneventful recovery. What follows is a description of an average timeline and routine surgical recovery following open heart surgery. Please feel free to contact to me or my secretary with any questions or comments.
Most minimally invasive procedures are performed through a tiny 2" incision between the ribs without breaking any bone. In women a tiny heart surgery scar can be often hidden in the skin fold underneath the breast. This scar becomes therefore virtually invisible over time and that is why these techniques are often described as scar-less heart surgery. At the end of the procedure a local anesthetic is injected in between the ribs and makes the surgical incision completely numb for a while.
The morning after surgery most patients are very comfortable and wide awake. Not much of an appetite, maybe some occasional bloating and constipation. These are minor side effects of the anesthesia drugs that resolve uneventfully in a day or two. The chest tubes, bladder catheters and monitoring lines are removed and our patients are allowed to stand up and sit out of bed in a chair. Later on in the day they are transferred to a private room in our adjacent Step Down Unit, staffed by the same group of specialized ICU nurses. The room is spacious and has a convertible sofa that can be used if a friend or a relative wants to stay with the patient overnight.
At this point most patients can start walking up and down the corridor with family members or a physical therapist. A mild soreness at the surgical site is present and it can be easily managed with pain pills. Patients are encouraged to walk as much as they are comfortable with and to carry out deep breathing exercises to clear up their lungs.
Still pretty comfortable and wide awake. Appetite is better and stomach feels fine. It gets easier to walk up and down the corridor or to the lobby. Most patients can be discharged home or to a rehab facility in two to three days after surgery. All instructions and prescriptions are given to them and an appointment for a follow up visit is set up.
Once he/she is home or at the rehab facility, a gradual increase in physical activity is recommended. By the end of these three or four weeks most patients have resumed their routine daily activities, including driving and going out (weather permitting). Most out-of-state patients are allowed to travel back home within the first seven days after surgery (day 7). After a successful postoperative visit in our office most patients can follow up with their primary care physician and/or cardiologist.