What is life like after heart surgery?

Published: Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

If you’ve been told you need to undergo a heart procedure, you probably have many questions. One of those questions may be about what your life will be like after heart surgery.

That’s a really common question, actually! It’s entirely normal to wonder what things will be like once you’ve had surgery.

In many cases, when heart surgery is recommended, you’ve been dealing with a heart health issue for a little while, even if you didn’t know that was the case. You may have been experiencing symptoms that were disrupting daily life or simply annoying, like shortness of breath or increased fatigue.

Will heart surgery be like waving a magic wand and getting rid of those symptoms? Or will you experience a different quality of life after heart surgery? It’s likely to be a little of both. Keep reading for the details.

How long will it take to recover after heart surgery?

The first part of life after heart surgery will include your recovery time. That encompasses both the time you’ll spend in the hospital following the surgery, as well as a period of additional recovery at home.

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to recovery. The length of time you’ll be in the hospital after heart surgery and how long you’ll need to recover before returning to normal activities will vary based on a number of factors, including the type of surgery you’re undergoing and your overall health.

In general, those who undergo robotic heart surgery will be discharged from the hospital more quickly and will recover more quickly at home. Robotic heart surgery is also associated with faster recovery times and less pain.

During your recovery, both in the hospital and at home, it’s important to carefully follow your surgeon’s guidance about what you should and shouldn’t do.

Will I need to change my habits after heart surgery?

Probably so! If we’re honest, most people—not just those undergoing heart surgery—could benefit from improving their lifestyle habits.

The vast majority of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease, like having high blood pressure, eating a diet high in saturated fat, or smoking. After heart surgery, it will be especially important to take a careful look at your habits and what you can do to improve your heart health.

Heart surgery isn’t a cure-all. While it will correct a heart health problem, surgery is simply the first step in the process. To keep the problem from recurring or to keep new heart health issues from developing, it will be important to take good care of yourself.

After heart surgery of any kind, Georgia Heart Institute recommends participating in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. This specialized rehab program is designed to get you healthy and active in a safe way following surgery, and it will also help teach you good habits related to nutrition and other aspects of life.

If you haven’t been physically active in the past, you’ll want to get moving after heart surgery. Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation is your first step in that direction, with specialized instructors to guide you through safe and monitored physical activity in the days and weeks after surgery.

Even after you’ve completed rehab, it will be important to maintain good habits. You went through the hard work of having heart surgery, so you’ll want to keep that heart protected in the future.

Next Steps

When your heart’s at stake, you can depend on the experts at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery and Georgia Heart Institute. The cardiothoracic surgery team is here to guide you to better heart health, during surgery and beyond.