How long does heart surgery recovery take?

Published: Friday, April 26, 2024
Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery

Your cardiologist recently referred you to a surgeon, who recommended you undergo heart surgery in the near future. You know what to expect from the surgery itself, but how long will recovery take afterward?

That seems like a straightforward question, but the answer can be complicated. Heart surgery recovery times vary in length depending on a number of factors, including the heart condition being treated and the type of procedure being performed. Recovery might take only a few days to weeks, or you might need a lengthier recovery to get back to normal.

What does recovery look like after heart surgery?

There are two types of heart surgery recovery to consider. First is the recovery done in the hospital. Depending on the type of surgical procedure you undergo, you will likely require intensive care in the hospital for a day or a few days, followed by less-intensive care before you are discharged.

At Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, recovery in the first hours and days following a heart procedure includes careful observation in the Ronnie Green Heart Center. In this cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU), specially trained nurses and other providers will track your vital signs and other health indicators, like how well your incision is draining. Your care team will also carefully watch you for any delays in recovery or other complications.

The second aspect of heart surgery recovery takes place after you have been discharged from the hospital. During this time, you will want to carefully follow the guidance provided by your surgeon and care team. They will tell you exactly what you do during this time—and what you should avoid.

Following this guidance will help you stay safe and make your recovery as smooth and quick as possible.

What’s the average heart surgery recovery time?

The answer to this question varies widely. At your pre-surgical appointments, your surgeon will talk you through what to expect, including heart surgery recovery.

How long it takes you to recover will depend primarily on a couple of factors, both related to the type of procedure you’re having.

The first is what type of cardiovascular procedure you’re undergoing. Some minor procedures may require only a day or two in the hospital following surgery. More complex procedures, such as a heart bypass, on the other hand, require up to five days in the hospital followed by a lengthy recovery at home.

The second factor is the type of surgical procedure you’re undergoing. Traditional procedures, which often involve using a procedure known as a sternotomy to open the sternum and access the heart, require a lengthier recovery due to their invasive nature and the complexity of the procedure.

Minimally invasive surgical procedures, including robotic heart surgery, often require less recovery time, both in the hospital and after discharge. On average, patients who undergo robotic heart surgery are in the hospital for two to five days, followed by two to four weeks of recovery at home.

Contrast that recovery time with the recovery time for a traditional open-heart surgery. Patients who undergo open-heart surgery with a sternotomy typically spend around five days in the hospital followed by two to three months of recovery after discharge from the hospital. Those who undergo traditional surgery are also more likely to require intensive postsurgical restrictions on activities as they recover.

Your surgeon and other providers will be able to offer you the most definitive answer about how long your recovery may take. Georgia Heart Institute is here to walk with you during every step of recovery, from your initial surgery through the completion of cardiac rehabilitation and beyond.

Next steps

When your heart is 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.

J. Clifton Hastings, MD, is a cardiothoracic surgeon with Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery, an integral part of Georgia Heart Institute.