What can I expect from bypass surgery? - British Heart Fou...

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What can I expect from bypass surgery?

Chaika profile image
14 Replies

My husband has just had a heart attack and been told that he needs bypass surgery. This has come completely out of the blue and we are all struggling to process it. He still looks fit and healthy but he plainly isn’t.

I’m trying to find out what to expect from the surgery so that I can plan how to support him. Such things like how long is he likely to be in hospital? How much time do I need to find to be there with him, or are relatives just expected to be there at normal visiting hours? What do I need to put in place for when he comes out? I’m trying to juggle this with work and family so it would be helpful to start working out practicalities, especially since he won’t be having surgery locally. I’m struggling.

Can anyone advise?

14 Replies

About a week , depends on his recovery , ICU few days then general ward smokers struggle more on recovery . No pain but must lie on his back for sleeping etc . Watch for fluid on lung & DVT post op as I had both .

MichaelJH profile image
MichaelJHHeart Star

Hello and welcome to the forum! All the basic information is here:


There is also a link to a downloadable booklet.

Recovery can be variable as we are all unique. A few of us had post op issues like some anemia and electrolyte imbalance. Remember though although it is a major event for us it is the routine day job to the surgeons!

jimmyq profile image

When you pick him up from hospital after the op, take a cushion to put between him and the seat belt. My wife took 2 weeks holidays to look after me when I got home. I started walking 10 minutes a day and she came with me at first. I was as weak as a kitten. I increased that by 10 minutes a day every week. I slept a lot. I found that doing anything for the first time after the op was tiring and I had to get used to doing things all over again. Even something as simple as visiting someone tired me out. I am a party guy now! This was back in the 1990s so things might have changed. The main thing for you is that I am still here so his chances are good.

shopman profile image

Have a read healthunlocked.com/bhf/post...

Chaika profile image

Thank you all for your tips.

It sounds a really scary thing to be going into, and I have noted down all the suggestions.

Things took a bit of a turn for the worse overnight so we are now expecting the surgery to take place as soon as possible today. And I’m frightened of how all of us will cope, to be honest. But this does at least give us some practical things to be getting on with.

Ianc2 profile image

Get a v shaped pillow, Be assured that they will not let him out until he is mobile. Appetite will be limited at first but will come back, but very gentle exercise at first, slowly progressing as he recovers. The operation will save his life so start planning a holiday to celebrate!

Neptune54 profile image

Hi Chaika, just had my triple bypass 2 weeks ago. I tried to get a little fitter before I went in. Nothing much, but just trying to increase my walking pace. Like your hubby, mine was totally unexpected. Recovery rates are very individual and one person may be days, others can be weeks. In general its around 10 days. The first few, you're fairly out of it on pain killers etc and whilst its nice to have visitors you'll do an awful lot of sleeping. Its the body's way of getting better. We're both retired which has helped and wife is very supportive. For my part, I try not to be too much of a pain. I think one of the keys is to have a positive attitude. Its being done to help you live longer. If you need pain killers, don't be a hero, take them. My recovery is progressing well and there is lots of help and support available on here.

CoachBrown profile image

Had my triple bypass 6 weeks ago. They'll have him sitting up very quickly and that's a good thing. Focus on using core and leg muscles for everything for awhile because lifting/pulling things will be off limits for about six weeks. Pain immediately after surgery was not bad due to painkillers. Sleeping will happen a lot but the sooner moving happens, the better. Expect small victories but know that it gets better. I'm doing small hikes and walking 5 miles a day at six weeks out. Heart will feel better but chest will be sore for awhile. Off of painkillers (and they were not strong) at 2 weeks. Now I do 1000 mg of extra strength Tylenol in the mornings because of soreness. Will sleep exclusively on back for a few weeks, probably propped up on pillows to ease chest pressure. Eventually will be able to sleep on sides. I'm still not at sleeping on chest. DO THE BREATHING EXERCISES! And watch for signs of depression!

The surgery is tough on the body but he'll make it out. I can honestly say that every day was/is a little bit better and he will feel not only normal, but probably better.

Handel profile image

Hi Chaika.

I can only speak about my husband's recovery following a quad bypass last November.

He had the op on a Monday and was discharged on the Friday!

He had a reaction to morphine and codeine (hallucinations) so his painkillers when he came out of ICU were just paracetamol.

Hospital food was awful so I took in food from the on site M & S!!

They'll get your husband doing breathing exercises (very important) and walking up and down the ward (probably on day 2 after the op). They'll need to make sure he can go to the toilet on his own and have a shower.

The catheter and sundry wires should be removed on day 2 after the op.

I was allowed to visit pretty much any time as the hospital was far from home.

When he goes home, make sure he has a pillow to protect his chest (he'll still have to wear a seat belt in the car I'm afraid)!

He'll be issued compression socks. He'll need to wear these night and day (my hubby was told to wear them for 4 weeks). Ask for some advice about putting these on.

I bought a V shaped pillow to support neck and shoulders in bed and on the settee. That really helped.

He couldn't sleep very well so used to nap in the day. It was difficult turning in bed so he woke up quite a bit during the night.

He started to go for short walks after about a week and gradually these walks became longer and faster.

He'll be shown how to cough and sneeze!! Basically, cross arms across the chest if he feels a sneeze or cough coming on.

He had veins taken from his leg for the 4 bypasses so had 6 neat cuts over his leg. His chest healed beautifully. The surgeon was obviously wonderful with needlework!

As someone said, this type of operation is classed as routine. The surgeons really know what they're doing but that doesn't stop partners' worry.

Best wishes to you and your family. He'll be fine xxxx

Chaika profile image

Thank you all. This is really helpful

Nic25 profile image

Hi Chaika. I had an AVR at age 50 in December, rather than a heart bypass, but it was still open-heart surgery. Both my wife and I found these from Guy's and St Thomas' really useful:




But feel free to DM if you want any more specific info as more than happy to pass it on. Basically the build-up - the terror - was for me much worse than the reality. Not saying it was easy or pleasant (and probably six months on some of the bad stuff has faded from memory a bit) but I was in and out in a week and once home much more "able" and able to do things than I had ever imagined I would be.

Good luck to both of you (and it'll be tough for you too). We'll all be rooting for you and keep asking questions here as this is what we're here for.

Nic x

Chaika profile image

Thank you.

He has just left for Bart’s. Surgery tomorrow. The fun starts there.

bluerose76 profile image

Hi Chaika,

Year 2002. I had some 3 months between being diagnosed as needing a 3X coronary bypass. I was 65. I had the operation on a Thursday, spent until Saturday afternoon in ICU. Felt miserable until they gave me a drip with a drug called Psychodrin (I think that was its name). Was wheeled into another ward for Sunday, still feeling pretty awful. Surgeon came by and checked the monitor. 'Highly irregular,' he said. 'HIGHLY irregular'. It didn't make me feel any better! Other patients, more sick than me, waved to me messages of support. Bless them!

By Monday things were definitely better. I had difficulty swallowing any thing dry or that needed chewing. Bananas and custard was easiest. Around midday I was helped on to my feet and started walking around my bed and by 3 o'clock I was able to walk around to the people who had waved to me when I felt really grim on the Sunday after the anaesthetic had worn off.

From then on it was all upward and onward, though I felt easily tired. Didn't find it easy to sleerp at night.

I had formed a friendly relatonship with the surgeon. Enjoyed chatting to him about Mozart, Beethoven and Mahler. We disagreed about the music of Bach. I told him that that would all change if he sang in one of the Passions. Suggested he put down his scalpel for a time and joined a choir. We had a good laugh.

In the weeks that followed I gradually regained my confidence. It took time for me not to feel very afraid that someone would bump into my chest as I walked along a pavement. Difficulty sleeping persisted for some weeks after I left hospital, but gradually I got back into normal sleeping pattern. From the day I returned home, I walked every morning before breakfast, for two miles along a country road with little traffic.

One thing that did alarm me was my erratic heart rate. Normal pulse rate was about 60 but at times it dipped down to 36. However the GP didn't seem much alarmed by that. It now beats at between 51 to 60 (at rest).

Longer term after-effects: A year after my operation I went walking in the mountains withnfriends around Cape Town. It was a tough walk. I woke next morning with a throbbing headache, very unusual for me. Then found I could not hold my razor properly or make the usual movements to shave. I made an emergency appointment with a Cape Town GP who told me that It seemed I had had a TIA. He sent me for a scan and the report confirmed that I had indeed suffered a short temporary stroke. Next day I was able to write my name and was able to get back the co-ordination in my hands and fingers.

I did suffer quite unreasonable bouts of anger at times, usually triggered by situations which one would normally laugh off.

Also I suffered very deep fits of depression which lasted for many weeks and lifted from me as surprisingly as they had originally affected me. I suspect that the medications may have had something to do with this. I suffered from long nights of insomnia and there seemed no remedy that was prescribed. I have a suspicion that warfarin might have brought on mood swings which plunged me into depression. Since I changed my anti-coagulant to Apixaban I have kept clear of depression. And I am very thankful for that. The long weeks of depression were quite dreadful.

I am now 83 years old. I consider the heart surgery the start of a second lease of life. I have been free of depression since 2014 and generally I feel fit and happy.

Hope this helps to give some indication of my post-op recovery. But my situation may well be quite different from any one else's.

Blue Rose 76

Chaika profile image

Thank you. That is helpful. And I am pleased that you sound like you are doing so well after the rough time you have had.

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