Coronary Bypass Surgery Chapter 9


Recovery from Bypass

After surgery, the patient is taken to the cardiac surgery intensive care unit. Here specially trained personnel continually monitor all vital functions, including the patient's EKG, blood pressure, and the force of blood ejected from the heart. Medications to make the heart beat more quickly or more slowly may be administered. Infusions will be given to maintain fluid balance and regulate blood pressure. Any tubes that have been placed in the chest to drain blood or air will be watched. Laboratory tests will be taken to assess organ function.

The patient will be moved from intensive care and into a step-down unit on the first day after the operation. Formerly, bypass operation patients were given several days' bed rest, but health professionals now recognize the importance of getting patients out of bed, walking, eating, and drinking as soon as possible.

Discharge from the hospital will occur much more quickly for patients who have had minimally invasive heart surgery (2-3 days as compared to 5-10 days for traditional bypass surgery). They can also expect a faster return to normal activity (usually about 2 weeks). Patients who have had traditional open-chest surgery can expect to drive again after 6 weeks, and to go back to work in 6-12 weeks.

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation can help people who have had bypass surgery get going again. A team of health-care providers, which may include doctors, nurses, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, and mental health professionals, lead the patient through a rehab program that's tailored to fit his or her needs. For instance, it might not be a good idea for people who have very high blood pressure or severe heart disease to exercise after bypass surgery, but they can still benefit from other aspects of rehab.

There are four phases of cardiac rehabilitation:

  • Phase I

Phase I of cardiac rehab begins while the patient is still in the hospital, and includes light, supervised exercise, such as walking in the halls and climbing stairs.

  • Phase II

Phase II of rehab is the early outpatient phase, beginning 2-6 weeks after discharge from the hospital. Most programs meet for an hour, 3 times per week for 12 weeks. Education is emphasized in this phase. Goals include easing fears about increasing activity, making psychological adjustments, improving endurance, managing stress, and making lifestyle changes.

  • Phase III

Phase III is a continuation of Phase II, and usually takes place 6-14 weeks after discharge. In it, patients are supported in having an ongoing exercise program, with monitoring of heart rhythm, rate, and blood pressure. Patients are also assisted in making lifestyle changes and in returning to work or having an independent lifestyle.

  • Phase IV

Phase IV is a wellness program for patients who have completed any of the other phases. Patients work on improving lifestyle changes and exercise three or more times per week.

More on this topic

What is Coronary Bypass Surgery? (VIDEO)

Restoring Flow

Stiff & Narrow

The Consequences of Clots

Testing & Diagnosis

Bypass Background

The Way to Your Heart

New Connections

Recovery from Bypass

Lifestyle for a Healthy Heart

Related Health Centers:


Aneurysm and Stent, Angioplasty, Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Continuum, Cholesterol and Atherosclerosis, Coronary Bypass Surgery, Heart Attack and Angina, Hypertension, Stroke, Thrombosis and Embolism, Women and Cardiovascular Health


The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.