Each day, thousands of heart surgeries are performed across the U.S. From open heart surgery to valve repair, there are a number of procedures available to help people maintain a healthy lifestyle in spite of a cardiac event.

And while there may be some apprehension in leaving the observant eyes of the hospital staff following heart surgery, returning to the comfort of home can bring peace of mind. The comfort of your own bed, obtaining more restful, uninterrupted sleep, relaxing in your favorite chair, enjoying home-cooked food, and getting out for fresh air are just a few of the benefits of heart surgery recovery at home.

In addition to the detailed instructions your doctor will provide before release, these heart surgery recovery tips can help:

Care of Incision

  • Keep the incision clean and dry.
  • The incision can be carefully washed (don’t rub) with soap. Do not use creams or lotions on incisions until after they are healed.

Pain Relief

  • A prescription for pain meds will be given before discharge from the hospital.
  • Itching, tightness and/or numbness around the incision are common after surgery.

Sleep and Diet

  • The doctor will instruct if a specialized diet is to be followed. A regular appetite is likely to return in a few weeks.
  • It’s not unusual to have problems with sleeping for some time after surgery. Normal sleep patterns typically return within a couple of months.


  • Three times each day, raise feet up higher than heart level when resting. (One note: recliners do not sufficiently elevate feet.)
  • Don’t cross legs when lying in bed or sitting. This puts pressure on the veins below the knees and decreases blood flow.


  • Do not pick up objects greater than 20 pounds.
  • Walk every day. The doctor or cardiac rehabilitation specialist will give instructions for walking upon returning home.

Mental Functioning and Heart Surgery

  • The whole body, including the brain, was greatly stressed during surgery. Over time, in most cases, normal cognitive functioning will return.
  • Avoid scenarios, people, or subjects of conversation that create tension or invoke anger. The heart works harder when emotions are unsettled and irritating.

When to Call the Physician

  • Temperature higher than 101 degrees F on more than one occasion, or chills for 24 hours.
  • Excessive redness, swelling, oozing or tenderness at the incision sites.
  • Elevated lethargy or shortness of breath.
  • Unusual pain or other symptoms that are not relieved by medications.
  • If the sternum feels as though it moves, or it pops or cracks with movement.

Lend a Hand Home Care provides a wide range of in-home care services to help with heart surgery recovery — from providing reminders to take medications and assistance with showering, to preparing nutritious meals and encouraging daily activity to improve strength and stamina, and much more. Our highly trained care team provides respite care in Reno and the neighboring areas to help loved ones adhere to post-op instructions while recovering in the comfort of home. Contact us today at 775-322-8414 and learn more about our top-rated home care services.