Recovering From Open Heart Surgery: 4 Ordinary Tasks That May Be Difficult

More than 500,000 people undergo coronary bypass surgery, the most common type of open heart surgery, each year. For the majority, about 98 percent, bypass surgery is a huge success and allows them to live a more fulfilling and active life. Regardless of how effective the surgery is, however, everyone who has open heart surgery has to go through a recovery period, which can be trying, both physically and mentally. If you're going to have open heart surgery, you should know that it may be difficult for you to do the following four ordinary tasks during your recovery period. 

Abruptly Sneezing or Coughing

Many people experience sternum pain for up to six weeks after having surgery. The pain is most intense during or right after sudden movements caused by laughing, coughing, or sneezing. While the pain can be intense, these motions will not cause damage. Your sternum will be wired shut so it cannot move. To lessen pain, many people hold a pillow against their chest whenever they feel a sneeze or cough coming on. 

Going Outside When It's Cold

Cold weather is dangerous for people with heart disease, and especially dangerous for those who have just had open heart surgery. In cold weather, the heart has to work harder to keep your body warm. This extra work can push a delicate heart over the edge, resulting in a heart attack. Right after your surgery, you should avoid going out into cold weather if at all possible. If you must go out, bundle up and limit your exposure to just a few minutes. 

Lying on Your Side

As mentioned, your sternum will be wired shut after surgery, and you may experience a great deal of sternum pain. This pain can make it difficult for you to sleep on your side or stomach. Many people find that they have less pain while lying on their back with their upper body elevated. Some doctors will discourage you from sleeping on your side at all after surgery. But, others will encourage you to sleep however you feel comfortable. 

Maintaining a Regular Sleep Schedule

It's not uncommon for people who have had major surgery to get their days and nights mixed up. You may find that you sleep all day and stay awake all night. You may also find that you sleep more or less than you should. Sleep disturbances are normal. However, you should discuss them with your doctor. 

Recovering from open heart surgery takes time and patience. However, if you follow all your doctor's orders and stay motivated, you will be completely recovered sooner than you may think.