Main Content

Heart Surgery

Recovering at home

At home you may have questions about your medicines, rehabilitation, and equipment. Talk to your family doctor about resources in your area and any other questions you have.

Recovery is different for everyone. Be patient with yourself. Some days you’ll feel better than others.

As you recover, your heart will work better and you’ll feel better. Over the next 3 to 6 months, you’ll have more energy and won’t tire as fast. But you’ll still have to take it easy. Start your usual activities slowly and gradually. Use the Home Recovery Guide​ to pace yourself.

Caring for your incision

If you leave the hospital before your staples are taken out, you’ll get instructions about when to see your family doctor to take them out. Taking out the staples doesn’t hurt and is quick. If you have dissolvable stitches, they don’t have to be taken out.

Keeping your hands clean is the best thing you can do to stop the spread of infections.​

You may have small tapes on the cuts where your chest tube and pacing wires were. These should fall off in 5 to 7 days. If they don’t, gently lift the edges and pull forward to take them off.

You may have a dressing in place covering your incision. Follow your doctor’s instructions for how to care for your incision.

Bacterial endocarditis

If your heart valve was repaired or replaced or you had a heart defect repaired, you’re at a higher risk for bacterial endocarditis​. It is an infection of the inside lining of the heart.

You’ll get a bacterial endocarditis wallet card at the hospital. Always carry it with you. Show it to your dentist, family doctor, or any other doctor you go to.

To lower your risk, don’t have routine dental work for at least 6 months after your heart surgery. If you need emergency dental surgery, tell your dentist you have had recent heart surgery.

Sleep and rest

You’ll get tired easily in the first 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Get as much rest as you can to get your strength back.

Sleep on your back if possible. You might sleep more comfortably in a recliner or in bed with several pillows for the first few weeks.

If you sleep best on your side, support yourself at a 45° angle by using wedge or pillow behind your back.

You may have odd or bad dreams for a short time. Talk with your family doctor if you’re concerned.


Put your feet up when you’re sitting. Put pillows under your legs when you sleep to keep your legs and feet from swelling.

If grafts were taken from your arm or legs, keep the arm or leg raised when sitting, lying, or sleeping to keep swelling down. Do this for at least 3 months.


Your body needs more protein and other nutrients to help you heal after surgery.

You may not be hungry when you first come home. It often takes a few weeks for your appetite to come back.

If you don’t feel like eating, here are things you can try:

  • Eat small amounts of food often during the day.
  • Eat foods that you like.
  • Have nutritious snacks such as protein shakes, fruit, and yogurt.
  • Include nutrition supplement drinks such as Ensure, Boost, and Carnation Breakfast Essentials.(You can buy these in most grocery and drug stores.)​​​

Go to Top