What to Expect if You Need Heart Surgery

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The patient journey for heart surgery begins long before the day of your operation. To help you learn more about what to expect, Murtaza Dawood, MD cardiothoracic surgeon at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center, answers a few common questions.

Besides the surgeon, what other roles make up my care team?

There are many people who will help you on your path from pre-op (before the operation) to post-op (after the operation). Your care team includes advanced practice providers (nurse practitioners and physician assistants), nurses, respiratory therapists, patient care technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists, nutritionist and medical doctors. All of these professionals play a vital role in providing you with quality care.

How long will I need to be in the hospital?

Every patient’s experience is unique, but the general goal is to discharge you from the hospital in four to five days. You will be in the intensive care unit for a couple days of your stay.  The rest of your stay will be in the medical stepdown unit.

How long does it take to recover from heart surgery?

After you leave the hospital, you will be on sternal precautions for 12 weeks. This means that you will have to protect your sternum until it heals.  You will work with a physical therapist and occupational therapist on how to do this after your surgery and before you go home. You will not be able to drive for about four weeks after surgery. Depending on your occupation, you can return to work eight to twelve weeks after surgery. The first week is often the most challenging while in the hospital. Once home, it usually takes a few weeks of rest before most people start to feel like themselves again.  It may take a few months to build up your appetite and stamina to pre-surgery levels. This also depends on the type of heart surgery you need.

After recovery, will I still need to visit my surgeon?

You will visit us in the post-op clinic one week after discharge.  We will determine at that time if we need additional follow-ups.  We will also follow-up with your cardiologist on when to start cardiac rehabilitation.

Dr. DawoodMurtaza Dawood, MD, is an experienced cardiothoracic surgeon who specializes in performing operations to correct valve diseases and arrhythmia. To make an appointment with Dr. Dawood, please call 443-481-1358.