Being prepared for what to expect can help patients heal


If you or a family member has had heart surgery, you’ve probably experienced the wide range of emotions that can accompany discharge from the hospital.

home visiting nurse taking patient's blood pressure“It’s not unusual for patients to be both extremely happy about returning to their homes and at the same time, worried and concerned about leaving the expert care of their cardiac surgeons and clinical and nursing staff,” explains Marjorie Serrano, RN, Nursing Director of Cardiac Surgery in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s CardioVascular Institute.

“Many patients will be discharged from the hospital as early as four days after leaving the operating room,” adds Cardiac Surgery Unit Educator Lisa Demanche, RN. “Heart surgery is a major undertaking, so it’s natural for patients to feel anxious. But we have observed that if cardiac surgery patients know what to expect and understand the progressive stages of their recovery, they feel less nervous about leaving the hospital and better prepared to continue to heal at home.”

To help address this need, the CVI’s Division of Cardiac Surgery has produced a series of videos that highlight eight specific elements of at-home recovery:

  • Physical Activity and Daily Routines
  • Caring for Your Incision
  • Danger Signs — When to Call the Doctor
  • Pain Control
  • Diet Tips to Help Speed Recovery
  • Commonly Prescribed Heart Medications
  • Follow-Up Care After You are Discharged
  • Understanding Coumadin (Warfarin)

Watch Videos

“The new videos supplement a post-op class that our surgery patients often attend before they leave the hospital,” says Serrano. “Through these videos, we want to provide patients with information and answers to help them play an active role in their recoveries.”

Monitor Your Progress — and Know When to Call the Doctor

Serrano and Demanche also remind patients who have undergone cardiac surgery that early treatment of minor problems can help to avoid complications.

“During the first month after discharge, patients and family members should call their surgeon’s office, 617-632-8383, any time they have a question or concern about their recovery or progress,” says Serrano.

Patients can help monitor their progress through the following:

  1. Take your temperature each day. If your thermometer shows a temperature of 100.5 degrees or higher, call your surgeon’s office, as elevated temperature could indicate an underlying infection that needs to be treated.
  2. Weigh yourself each day. If your scale shows that you have gained more than two pounds in a single day or more than five pounds over the course of a week, call your surgeon’s office. This weight gain could indicate that your body is retaining fluid, a potentially dangerous situation.

BIDMC’s Division of Cardiac Surgery is available to answer questions 24/7. If you have elevated temperature or weight gain, or are concerned about other aspects of your recovery, please call 617-623-8383.

Above content provided by the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Winter 2018