Your Hospital Recovery

After surgery, you'll be moved to a recovery area where you can be closely watched. From there, you may go to a special care unit or a regular room. During your recovery, you will be given medications to help relieve pain. Special exercises may help improve your breathing and range of motion while you heal. The hospital stay after minimally invasive heart surgery varies from patient to patient. But it's often less than a week.

Right After Surgery

When you first wake up from the anesthesia, you may feel groggy, thirsty, or cold. The breathing tube given to you during surgery may still be in place. If so, you won't be able to talk. You will have flexible tubes in your chest to drain air, blood, and fluid. Intravenous (IV) lines give you fluid and medications. They will be removed when you no longer need them. Monitors record your heartbeat and the amount of oxygen in your blood. You may spend several hours in this special monitoring unit before you're moved to a regular room.

Managing Your Pain

Pain medications help make you more comfortable. A nurse may give these medications to you. If you feel pain, tell your nurse right away. Don't wait until the pain gets bad before you mention it. Sometimes, a special pump (called a PCA pump) is used. This pump lets you give yourself small amounts of medication as you need them.

Learning Respiratory Therapy

Deep-breathing and coughing exercises help you recover from surgery. They keep your lungs clear, make your breathing muscles stronger, and prevent complications. A nurse or therapist may teach you these exercises before or soon after your surgery. Perform them as instructed after your surgery.

Moving into Activity

You'll soon begin to move around to improve your muscle strength and blood flow. Your nurse or a therapist will help you when you first get up and walk. You may also be taught range-of-motion exercises. These help stretch and strengthen your muscles as they heal.

Taking Medications

If you have heart valve surgery, you may need to take an anticoagulant ("blood thinner"). How much of this medication you need takes some time to adjust. Much of this adjustment will happen before you go home. Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about this and any other medications you need.

Going Home

Before you leave the hospital, your doctor will go over the results of your surgery with you. You will be told what to expect while you get better. Your doctor will also talk with you about any more treatment you may need. He or she will review the next stage of your treatment plan and schedule future visits. When you're ready to leave the hospital, you will need to have someone drive you home

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