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What to expect after the operation

Get Well Soon

Helping you to make a speedy recovery after surgery to bypass a damaged blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart

What to expect after the operation

Scar

You should expect to have a scar running lengthways from your breastbone to a point on your midriff, of at least 6 inches long. You may also have some stitches in your leg if a vein has been removed to make the graft, or an incision in your arm if a vein has been harvested from there.

Stitches

If the surgeon has used stitches (or sometimes clips) which don’t dissolve, then a nurse at your local doctor’s surgery will remove these about 8 to 10 days after the operation. Your surgeon will advise you exactly when you should have them removed. If you have had chest drains put in, these will be removed 1 or 2 days after your operation and the stitches 5 or 6 days later.

Dressings

It is common for some of the wounds to leak a small amount of fluid in the days after your operation. Your doctor or nurse will apply a small dressing for this. If there is a lot of discharge, a district nurse may visit you at home to change the dressing for you.

Use only soap and water on the affected areas, and keep them clean and dry. You should be able to bathe as normal, but if showering, turn your back to the spray. Try to use water that is not too hot or cold, and don’t soak or rub the affected areas until they are completely healed.

Discomfort

You’re bound to feel pain in your chest immediately after surgery, and you may get pain in the surrounding muscles, such as neck and arms. This is normal and usually eases off over the next 3 to 4 weeks.

You may experience discomfort in your chest for a while after the initial healing phase but for most people this will resolve after six months. It is important to continue to use your arms normally during this period as it will help with healing. If a vein has been removed from your leg, you will also have some swelling there, and some patients get pins and needles, or numbness. Your doctor or nurse will make sure you have painkillers to take home with you, and may suggest wearing a support stocking at home. Most people are able to sit up by the second day and can go home in a week or so.

You may experience a loss of appetite, but this will improve.

Tiredness

Your body is using a lot of energy to heal itself, so you will feel more tired than normal - sometimes it can come upon you suddenly but don’t feel that it's going to be that way forever. As your physical activity levels improve you will steadily start to feel less tired.

Feeling emotional

If you feel upset or emotional in the days and weeks after your operation, don’t worry - this is a perfectly normal reaction which many people experience.

Painkillers

Painkillers may well cause constipation, so it’s important to get plenty of fibre in your diet while you are recovering. Fresh fruit and vegetables will help to keep your bowels moving regularly.

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