The first three months involve a huge physical recovery from the surgery itself. As they have broken
through the breast bone to perform the surgery it will take some time for that bone to heal. It is
steel wired back into alignment so it is very secure. When you break your leg you are put in a cast
for 6 weeks to maintain the bone position and then you weight bear on the bone to stimulate
healing. It is obviously different with the breast bone as you need to continue to breath and this
involves chest movement. For this reason it will take approximately 3 months for the bone to heal.
During the healing phase it is important that you continue to take nice deep breaths to maintain
your lung capacity. This will mean taking painkillers for a period of time.
It is important that you maintain shoulder movement after surgery and your physiotherapist will go
through some simple exercises for you to do before your discharge. These may seem unnecessary to
you but it is important that you maintain the mobility of your shoulder as this is a complex joint and
any limitation with same will be painful and from a physiotherapy point of view takes some time to
New research tells us that you can commence a formal rehabilitation programme as early as two
weeks post your surgery. The chest and arm weights will be limited during this time to allow for
your sternotomy to heal.
One you decide to proceed with a rehabilitation programme, you will perform an exercise test. This
will identify your current capability and then allow the rehabilitation team to prescribe exercise for
you which will improve your capability. This is a graded test so starts off slowly and every two
minutes the speed of stepping will be increased until you reach your capacity.
There is a common misconception that you are cured after the surgery of heart disease. Heart
disease is a progressive disease and you will need to address your risk factors to prevent ongoing
build up of plaque.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a lifelong journey.
Heart Attack Prevention:
The Health Service Executive report that people who do not exercise are twice as likely to have a
heart attack as those who exercise regularly. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of
death in Ireland accounting for 36% of all deaths.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when a plaque breaks of from the wall of your coronary artery which causes a
bleed into the vessel.
What can I do to prevent heart attack?
- Smoking – There I no easy way around this, you will have to quit.
- Physical inactivity – You need be active for 150 minutes per week and avoid prolonged
sitting. A more specific training programme reaps greater rewards.
- Obesity – Being overweight and obese contributes significantly to your risk and you should
try to at least achieve a 10% weight loss.
- High blood pressure – you need to get your blood pressure checked frequently and aim to
achieve less than 140/90 but ideally 120/80.
- High Cholesterol: Getting your cholesterol checked annually and working with your
healthcare practitioner to optimise.
- Stress – You will need to manage stress in your day to day life and aim for a greater overall
- Alcohol- limit your alcohol and avoid binge drinking.
Other risk factors that are unmodifiable are:
- Post menopausal women