FAQs After Heart Surgery
What should I eat after surgery?
Here are some healthy eating tips for after heart surgery or angioplasty:
Include fruits and vegetables will ALL meals.
Choose lower fat foods e.g. low fat spreads, lean meat (chicken), semi-skimmed milk.
Include fish in your meals regularly. Oily fish is good for the heart e.g. Salmon, mackerel and trout.
Eat only lean meat and trim excess fat before cooking.
Keep all fat to a minimum. Used vegetable based oils e.g. olive oil. Use low-fat spreads in place of butter or lard.
Increase high fibre foods e.g. Whole meal, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, potatoes with skin.
Limit salt intake and avoid adding salt to your food at the table.
Keep fatty and sugary foods e.g. chocolate, chips, cakes and biscuits as occasional treats.
Can I consume alcohol after open heart surgery?
Do not exceed two (2) drinks in any given day. It is recommended that you abstain from alcohol if you are taking Warfarin (blood thinning medication). Please note, if you skip a day, you cannot have 4 drinks on the following day.
When is it safe to drive after open heart surgery?
The Ministry of Transport normally advises that you do not drive four (4) weeks after an operation. We suggest that you discuss this with your doctor as you must be able to adjust the hand brake comfortably before you resume driving.
When is it safe to return to work after open heart surgery?
We generally advise you not to return to work unless you have attended your follow up outpatient appointment.
Please discuss this with your doctor to be safe.
Sedentary work e.g. light office work – you may resume work six (6) weeks after your operation.
Heavy/Manual work e.g. heavy lifting – stay off work for at least twelve (12) weeks.
When is it safe to have sexual relations after open heart surgery?
We recommend that you stay away from sexual activity for at least four (4) weeks after discharge. The exertion of intercourse is similar to climbing two flights of stairs. Once you can cope with this level of activity, you should be fine. Build up your stamina for sex. Adopt a passive role at first and let your partner do most of the work.
When is it safe to take a vacation after my open heart surgery?
You can take a restful holiday locally at any time, once you can cope with travelling by car etc. Holidays abroad can be taken 6-8 weeks after your operation once you have had your follow up outpatient appointment. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to travel by air. Avoid strenuous vacations and remember to take your medication with you. Talk to your doctor about your vacation plans.
What is an arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is the variation from the normal rhythm of the heartbeat.
What are the types of arrhytmias?
Slow Heart Rate (Bradycardia)
There are conditions where the electrical signals become blocked or impaired as they travel down the nerve pathways in the heart. The problem can also originate from the starting point of the electrical impulses at the top of the heart, an area known as the Sinus Node. Whenever there is a blockage in the conduction pathway or a disease of the Sinus Node, the result is an abnormally slow heart rate called a Bradycardia and the heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute.
Fast Heart Rate (Tachycardia)
As opposed to a Bradycardia there are conditions where the heart rate rises above 100 beats per minute and this fast heart rate is called a Tachycardia. A fast heart rate during exercise is normal however if it occurs while a patient is at rest this can indicate an abnormal condition. They are a variety of causes of abnormal tachycardia and some are described below.
Premature Heart Beats and Tachycardia
As mentioned above, in the normal heart rhythm, the nerve impulses originate in the Sinus Node at the top of the heart and conduct downwards to the bottom of the heart. However, sometimes other areas in the heart acquire the ability to produce a separate abnormal heartbeat of its own. Such abnormal beats usually occur just before a normal heartbeat and are therefore called premature heart beats. It is further named in accordance with the location of the origin of the abnormal beat. If the location is in the top two chambers of the heart then it is called a Premature Atrial Contraction or PAC. If however the premature beats originate in the lower two chambers it is called a Premature Ventricular contraction or PVC. Most times premature beats are harmless, if however they produce symptoms, then it may warrant further testing and treatment.
This form of tachycardia arises from abnormal conduction pathways in the upper two chambers which short circuits the normal electrical conductivity of the heart resulting in a very fast heart beat. In some instances these abnormal pathways are inherited from birth (e.g. Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome). In other instances, they develop later in life. Although not usually life threatening, treatment is recommended if the condition causes symptoms and if they recur.
This is a tachycardia that also arises in the upper two chambers in the heart. In this condition, the upper chambers called the atria beat at very high rate faster than the lower chambers. Typically during Atrial fibrillation the atria will beat at a rate of between 200 and 600 beats per minute. However the heart limits the conductivity of the impulses from the atria to the lower chambers. As a result, during Atrial fibrillation the maximum rate of the ventricles is between 100 to 180 beats per minute. Symptoms of Atrial fibrillation include palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue. Patients with Atrial fibrillation are at a higher risk of stroke, therefore the condition is often treated. Treatment can include prescribed medication but in some instances more aggressive therapy is required.
When the tachycardia originates in the lower main pumping chambers of the heart then it is referred to as a Ventricular tachycardia. These are more serious and often occur in patients with heart disease. In many instances they result from damage to the heart caused by coronary heart disease which causes short circuits in the conduction pathways in the ventricles giving rise to the rapid beating of the ventricles. Symptoms include light-headedness, pounding of the heart, dizziness, chest pain or fainting. This serious condition requires immediate medical help. In some instances, ventricular tachycardia can lead to ventricular fibrillation in which the ventricles beat in an uncoordinated chaotic rhythm which results in a marked decrease in the hearts ability to pump blood and is a fatal condition if not treated within minutes.