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What is a normal recovery time and symptoms after having open heart surgery? Are these symptoms normal?

By Expert HERWriter April 4, 2009 - 11:16pm
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Hello everyone,

A reader emailed me with her concerns about her friend and the way he has been looking and acting after his recent open heart surgery. I did some research for her on her questions and strongly suggested that her friend get in to see his physician right away for a follow up. But I wanted to post her question here too as I know others will be able to help her out. Thank you so much, M

"I have a friend that had open heart surgery over a month ago.he just left the hospital 2 days ago has not been eating since surgery but is still sullen all over except for his face which is sunken in and is having hard time getting around shortness of breath. Can you help me understand what has happened .I know they freeze your organs for this type surgery but he should be doing better by now .Or am I expecting to much to soon."

Then she emailed me again with this update:

"he is eating some now ,blood pressure still drops to 60 over 40 then will go up some . he is battling with depression is not a happy person.has started therapy.complains of pressure on chest some of the time"

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Expert HERWriter

Thank you alison b! The information about his possibly having had a stroke was very interesting. I had not thought of that initially but you are so right. I had also mentioned that depression is probably common after a major health issue but your additional link should be very helpful to the poster. Thank you so much for your help and reply! M

April 5, 2009 - 11:55pm

Does she know about Mended Hearts?

Mended Hearts is by the American Heart Association (AHA), and here is the description: "Patients, spouses, family members, friends, medical professionals, Mended Hearts brings together all of us who are faced with the realities of heart disease to form a network of caring individuals."

I did not see anything related to "sunken face", and that may be due to his lack of eating, but it could also be a sign of a stroke. He should see his doctor immediately. "It is common after surgery to have a poor appetite at first. If this is the case, try to eat smaller, more frequent meals. Your appetite should return within the first few weeks. If it does not, contact your doctor. "

Depression is common after any type of major "health event" or surgery, but does require some attention. The website for Heart Surgery Recovery, Cleveland Clinic says this about depression: "It is common for you to feel sad or depressed after you leave the hospital. These emotions may be the result of not knowing what to expect or not being able to do simple tasks without becoming overly tired. Temporary feelings of sadness are normal, and should gradually go away within a few weeks, as you get back to your normal routine and activities."

I wish her and her friend well, and hope that they can both seek medical and psychiatric advice promptly.

A side note: her friend may still be within the "normal recovery" phases, as it's only been four weeks, even though the literature says recovery occurs within a "few weeks". (I am one of those people that recover "slower" than what the literature says, too!).

April 5, 2009 - 6:28am
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