Question: What is the typical recovery like after bypass surgery?
Answer: The recovery after surgery, most people are pretty surprised at, it's pretty straightforward.
These days many patients leave the hospital after about four days. Patients that don't smoke frequently get their breathing tube out the day of the surgery; usually the next day will leave the intensive care unit; they start walking once they get up to the floor; they're sitting in a chair very commonly the day after the surgery and they're usually even tested on stairs before they go home.
Once they go home, I tell patients expect to be tired, especially the first two or three weeks. That's normal. People may want to take a nap in the afternoon, that's not unusual. You're body is sort of anemic going through this, so that you're blood count is lower. And so that you may notice that you don't feel quite as perky as you normally would.
After those first few weeks though people gradually getting better.
We want them to limit what they lift though because the incision is healing up. And the incision is being held together with these heavy metal wires for the sternum, the breast bone there. So we tell them, "Don't lift anything over 20 for six weeks after surgery."
Many patients ask about things like a treadmill or golfing and things. When can they go back to work?
Walking is fine, so a treadmill you could start anytime as soon as you're starting to feel better. Many people start within a week. Golfing, patients go out to the golf course within a few weeks and are using their putter on the greens, chipping around the greens. But we don't really want them hitting those huge drives for at least six or eight weeks afterwards.
When to go back to work depends on the kind of work that you do. We see people in the hospital on their laptops these days that are actually answering their emails.
Other people that don't have a very heavy physical job and that are younger and sort of bouncing back pretty quickly, maybe between two and four weeks, would go back, especially if they can go back part time.
By about four to six weeks, the majority of patients will be back to work. And virtually everybody by six weeks is ready to back to work, unless they do very heavy manual labor in which case we might want them to work in a little bit slower.