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

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Discharge Instructions After Heart Surgery

Please review this information before you leave the hospital and feel free to ask any member of our team any questions you may have regarding the instructions. When at home, call our office (804 828-2774) if you have any questions or concerns.

  • You may have adjustments and changes to all of your medicines.
  • Take pain medicine so you can continue to move, walk, cough and deep breathe.
  • Continue to use incentive spirometer and acapella (“pickle”) at home to help your lungs expand and prevent pneumonia. 
  • Check your weight, blood pressure, and blood sugars daily.
  • Surgical incisions:
    • Usually you will have steri-strips on your chest incisions.  If you have sutures or staples, your surgeon or nurse practitioner will remove them at your first post-op visit.
    • You will have stitches underneath the skin that you cannot see.  These will dissolve.
    • You will have permanent titanium wires and maybe a Talon plate to help hold the sternal bone together.  You cannot see them and usually cannot feel them.  These do not cause problems with metal detectors or microwaves.
  • Incision Care:
    • Keep incisions clean and dry.
    • May shower with water and soap to incision.
    • No soaking or swimming in tubes or pools.
    • May remove steri-strip from incisions after 1-2 weeks.
    • No ointments or lotions on incisions until they are completely healed.
  • You may need to limit the fluids you drink.
  • Keep your “heart healthy” and “diabetic” diet (no high sugar foods and drinks) after discharge to help you heal.
  • You can go up and down steps and go for walks.
  • No lifting, pushing or pulling anything more than 10 pounds (a big bag of sugar)    Try not to use your arms.
  • No driving until cleared by your doctor or Nurse Practitioner.
  • Pace yourself to your own body’s signals.  During your recovery, there may be days when you feel tired or frustrated.  You may feel like you are not getting better as quickly as you would like.  Check you progress in terms of weeks, not days.  Look week to week for signs you are getting better.  Recovery for most heart surgery patients is excellent.  Discuss any concerns with your doctor or nurse practitioner. 
  • Make an appointment with Cardiothoracic Surgery for 1-2 weeks after surgery.
  • See your cardiologist or primary care doctor within 4-6 weeks after surgery.
  • Call if fevers or chills, redness or drainage of incisions, or shortness of breath.


Questions or Concerns, Please Call 804-828-2774


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