Following heart surgery, a complex web of care needs occurs, from dietary changes to incision care, pain management, swelling reduction, and more. The last thing an older adult wants after coming home from such a difficult event is to face the need for rehospitalization.
Visiting Angels, providers of premier in home care in Sunnyvale and the surrounding area wants to help make sure your senior loved one recuperates completely and as rapidly as possible from heart surgery, and provides the following tips:
Caring for the Incision
Directions on how to care for the incision will be provided prior to leaving the hospital. Considerations to be aware of include:
- Remember to keep the incision clean and dry.
- The incision can be carefully washed (don’t rub) with soap. You should not use creams or lotions on incisions until they are healed.
- In some cases a swelling or lump appears at the top of the chest incision, and can take a few months to disappear.
- If the incision is healing and dry, quick showers (no longer than 10 minutes) are normally permitted. If there are sutures in the chest, stand with back to the shower spray.
- If showers are not available, quick baths (limited to 10 minutes) may be taken.
- Avoid extreme hot or cold water temperatures, as they can cause faintness.
- Initially, there might be some muscle or incision soreness in the chest area during activity, but there should not be pain in the chest equivalent to the pain prior to surgery.
- A prescription for a pain medication will be given prior to being discharged from the hospital.
- Itching, tightness and/or numbness along the incision are common after surgery.
- If the surgery was bypass surgery, and if vein grafts from the legs were utilized, there may be more pain in the legs than surrounding the chest incision.
- Walking, daily activities, and time will help to minimize leg discomfort and stiffness.
It is possible to go home with some swelling in the legs and feet, especially if vein grafts were taken from the legs. If swelling is noted:
- Lift feet up higher than heart level when resting. Try doing this three times a day for one hour to lessen swelling. (Note: recliners do not adequately elevate feet.)
- Walk every day even if legs are swollen.
- Hospital support hose may be suggested.
- Do not cross legs while lying in bed or sitting. This places pressure on the veins under the knees and reduces blood flow.
The recovery period from heart surgery can be a daunting time and you may be tempted to contact the physician over each and every discomfort or symptom. If you experience any of the following symptoms however, call your physician immediately:
- Temperature of more than 101 degrees F on more than one occasion or chills for 24 hours.
- Significant oozing, redness, swelling or tenderness at the incision sites.
- Increased exhaustion or shortness of breath.
- Abnormal pain or other symptoms not alleviated by medications.
- If the sternum feels like it moves, or it pops or cracks with movement.
Visiting Angels offers professional in home care in Sunnyvale and the surrounding area that can help significantly in keeping your senior loved one on the road to recovery after heart surgery by supplying personal care services, helping around the home and with meals to allow him or her to rest and recover, running errands, picking up prescriptions, and so much more. Contact us online or call 408-735-0977 to let us know more about how we can help you.