What You Need to Know About CABG Surgery Recovery

Posted by Heart Hugger on Jul 11, 2022 12:21:58 PM

doctor discussing recovery with patient

Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is a major operation. The recovery process can take weeks--but if you know what to expect and how to care for yourself, it's much easier to prevent complications, improve comfort, and even heal more quickly. Here's what to know.

What is CABG Surgery?

Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is the most common type of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It describes a condition in which fatty material builds up inside coronary arteries, narrowing them and restricting the flow of oxygen, nutrients, and blood to the heart. The treatment for CAD is CABG surgery.

In CABG surgery, a surgeon takes a blood vessel from another part of the body--like the wrist or leg--and uses it to bypass the arterial blockage. Once the surgery is complete, blood will be able to travel through the new vessel, essentially "going around" the blockage.

CABG surgery can be performed in different ways depending on a patient's needs and a surgeon's recommendations. One of the most common approaches is open-heart surgery, in which the surgeon cuts open the chest, breastbone, and heart to perform the bypass. That means CABG surgery is a major operation.

What Happens After CABG Surgery?

At the end of a CABG procedure, a surgeon uses metal wires to repair the breastbone. These wires will remain on the bone permanently. After that, tubes are inserted to drain excess fluid and the incision is stitched and bandaged.

Patients are moved to the ICU immediately after CABG surgery. Here, doctors and nurses aid in the early stages of the recovery process, including:

  • Taking deep breaths.

  • Coughing to remove mucus from the lungs.

  • Gradually increasing activity.

  • Monitoring the incision site for excess bleeding.

Once a patient is stable, they can be moved out of the ICU to continue recovering. During this portion of the hospital stay, medical teams help teach patients what they'll need to do when they go home in order to prevent complications.

Preventing Complications After CABG Surgery

Because CABG surgery involves opening a large portion of the best, cutting through the breastbone, and even temporarily stopping the heart, the healing process is naturally extended--which means there's a risk for certain complications. Infection, extensive bleeding, stroke, and other problems can occur.

If you're having CABG surgery, it's important to know what to do to prevent complications once you've left the hospital:

Pay careful attention to your doctor's instructions.

Your doctor will give you a lot of information about the recovery process, wound care, and more. You need to listen carefully and ask any questions you might have--that way, you feel confident addressing your needs at home. (Of course, you should always call your doctor if anything comes up.)

Research sternum support devices.

Sternum support devices make it easier for you to breathe, cough, and move around during CABG surgery recovery. They improve your comfort levels so you can stick to your doctor's recommendations and perform these key activities, helping speed up the healing process and limit the risk of complications.

Look out for signs of trouble.

Your body will tell you when something's going wrong. Here are a few signs it's time to call your doctor:

  • Chest pain.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Pus draining from your wound.

  • Leg swelling.

  • Numbness in the limbs.

  • Rapid pulse.

  • High temperature.

If you catch these signs early, you may be able to prevent severe complications and get your healing journey back on track more quickly.

Make sure your diet is healthy.

It's important to build good dietary habits after CABG surgery. That's especially true in the first few weeks of your recovery, when you may have a reduced appetite; it's important to keep eating so you keep your strength up. However, remember to follow your doctor's recommendations for a healthy diet, and always drink plenty of water.

Remember to rest.

Although your doctor will recommend certain activities for you to do as you get stronger, remember that you need to give yourself plenty of time to rest. Your body is using a lot of energy to heal, so you'll need to take it slow for several weeks.


CABG surgery is a major operation and involves a long healing process. The good news is that you can manage your own recovery by understanding complications and taking all the right steps to help prevent them--starting with your doctor's recommendations.

Remember, a key tool for heart surgery recovery is a sternum support vest like Heart Hugger. Contact us today to learn more about how Heart Hugger supports your healing journey.

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Written by Heart Hugger

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