After Your Cardiac Operation Discharge Instructions


Home Activities Instructions

Since your heart surgery, you have received a lot of information related to your recovery. The Cardiothoracic Surgery team has tried to summarize some of the most important information on this reference sheet. The team recommends you follow these instructions after discharge from the hospital. Please read the information booklets given to you by Cardiac Rehab for valuable information. To view the post op video from your home internet go to: Remember it may take up to six weeks for you to feel well again. If you have any questions, please call 217-545-4421 Monday through Friday 8-4:30. If you have questions after hours or on the weekend, call 217-545-8000, the answering service will contact our on-call person. Go directly to the EMERGENCY ROOM if you have an emergency.


Continue with the exercise program you started in the hospital. You should: o Walk three times daily for 10 minutes each time. Gradually increase 5 minutes per week. Progress to walking 1-2 miles per day by two months after discharge. Remember to walk inside if the temperature is below 42°F or above 90°F. You may climb stairs unless you were given specific instructions prohibiting this activity. Continue to do your breathing exercises. Take 5-6 breaths every hour while awake the first 2 weeks. You may resume sexual intercourse. Avoid any position that causes stress to your arms or chest.


Lifting is restricted to allow your chest bone to heal. After 3 months, your chest bone will be completely healed. Avoid pushing, pulling, tugging and twisting motions with your arms. Please follow these lifting instructions. o 6 weeks 10 lbs o 6-12 weeks 25-30 lbs

Showering and Bathing

Showering is highly recommended. Tub baths should be avoided since getting into and out of the tub may strain your chest. You may wish to sit on the side of the tub to bathe until your leg strength has returned.


Smoking is known to cause heart disease. If you have been a smoker and have not already stopped, you must do so now. Avoid chewing tobacco as well.


You should refrain from driving until your surgeon has given you permission for this activity. You may ride in the car, but be sure to wear your seatbelt.

Incision Care

Wash your incision with mild soap and water daily, pat dry after washing. Examine your incision for any redness, swelling, or drainage. If you see any of these changes in your incision, have a temperature greater than 101.5°F, any shortness of breath or other problems, please call us. If there are strips over your incisions, you may remove them one week after you go home.


Cholesterol and saturated fats are known to cause heart disease. Please follow the dietician’s instructions. You may eat any foods you wish when you first get home until your appetite improves and you are feeling better. Caffeine may interfere with your normal heartbeat. While it is fine to drink decaffeinated beverages, you should limit beverages with caffeine to 1 or 2 per day. Salt causes you to retain fluid and may cause high blood pressure. This is not a problem for everyone, but you should avoid salt in cooking.

Leg Swelling

You may notice some swelling in the leg(s) where the veins were removed. This is due to a temporary decrease of fluid drainage. Keeping your legs elevated on a foot stool or recliner will help keep the swelling to a minimum. If you were given support stockings in the hospital wear these during the day.

Chest or Leg Swelling

We encourage the use of pain medication the first few weeks after your surgery. You may take the prescribed medication or Tylenol for your incision soreness. If you have pain related to your heart as before your surgery, please call your doctor immediately. Pain medication can be very constipating. You may need to purchase a stool softener and laxatives to prevent this.

Follow-up Visits

Make an appointment to see your family doctor in 1-3 weeks. If an appointment needs to be made or changed please call 217-545-7422. Our clinic is located on the 2nd floor of the Simmons Cancer Institute at the corner of Rutledge and Carpenter Streets. Prior to your appointment, please stop on the 1st floor and have a chest x-ray.