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VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Thoracic aortic disease program

What to expect after surgery

Following open surgery, patients are taken to the intensive care unit where vital signs are monitored. Medication is administered to relieve pain around the site of the incision.

Within 1 to 3 days patients move to a regular hospital bed. During hospital recovery, the surgeon will likely order one or more of the following: blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, or CT scans to assess the results of the operation.

Nurses and physical therapists from VCUMC work closely with each patient, helping them regain strength, mobility and confidence. Some patients are advised to wear compression stockings to help prevent blood clots. Most patients who have open surgery go home within 5 to 7 days.

With less invasive surgery, a hospital stay is generally around 3 to 5 days. Patients treated with a catheter-guided endograft may be in the hospital for just 2 days.

Follow-up care is crucial. A 30-day check up is typical.

Recovery depends on a number of variables including type of surgery, accompanying conditions, how quickly your body heals, etc. Open surgery patients typically face a 3-month window before resuming activity at normal levels. With less invasive care, normal activity may be resumed within 4 to 6 weeks.

After surgery patients need to take medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol. Patients are advised to adopt a heart-healthy diet and engage in a physically activity.

During recovering patients may experience back pain and discomfort. The tendency is to avoid physical activity when it is actually very beneficial. These individuals often walk less, gain weight, and blood pressure becomes difficult to manage. This scenario contributes to mental depression.

Good pain management, coupled with appropriate physical activity, is key to post-surgical rehabilitation. Patients should discuss their pain with their physician if it is impeding prescribed exercise.