Triple Bypass Surgery Experiences

I’m scheduled to undergo triple bypass surgery next week.

I’ve been reading up on procedures and suchlike, but I’d like to get some feedback on what peoples’ experiences were afterward.

What is recovery like? Were you sent to a rehab facility before going home? How did you feel when you got home? How much pain were you in and what did you do to alleviate it? What could and couldn’t you do? Are there things I should buy now to make life easier for the first few weeks? Did you make a full recovery or were things still bad later on?

Thanks and commiserations to anyone who responds.

I have no idea … but good luck.

Hubs had a quad bypass about 10 years ago. As he had me, he was sent home with a home nurse coming in once to check on him.

The biggest thing we wish we had gotten was one of those lifting recliners because he was forbidden to use his arms to push himself up. He also couldn’t lift more than 5 lbs. A gallon of milk is 8.4 lbs, btw. He couldn’t reach over his shoulders, so I had to move glasses/coffee cups and plates to the counter for him. He also needed oversized button up shirts because he couldn’t pull t-shirts over his head, or put his arms back to put on properly sized button up shirts.

The first couple of weeks, I made sure he followed the dosing instructions on his pain meds. He needed to be relaxed to be able to sleep and heal. His routine was for me to wake him up around 8, help him get dressed, feed him breakfast and take him for a walk. I’d bring him home and he would sleep for a few hours before I woke him up for lunch and a walk. He got to sleep a few more hours before I got him up for dinner and a walk.

After 4 weeks, he was cleared for PT and was back at work with medical restrictions within 2 months. He was fully recovered within 6 months.

I know this is pretty scary for you, how could it not be? Bypass surgery is pretty common now, your surgeon has probably practiced on a whole bunch of people already and he or she knows what they are doing. Don’t try to second guess them, do what they tell you because they really do know what they are talking about.

I’ll send wishes for an uneventful surgery and recovery.

What a frightening position to be in. Six years ago I was facing cardiac catheterization with stent/angioplasty as best case scenario and bypass as worse case scenario.

I refused to consent to bypass, and my gf was upset, as was my cardiologist. Luckily, all I needed was a stent, but I still have nightmares where I refuse necessary bypass.

It’s a good thing you’re more brave than I am. Hope everything goes smoothly. I’ll read other’s experiences even though I shouldn’t

Fortunately, my wife is also retired so she’ll be there full time.

Was your husband able to climb stairs and use his regular bed? How did you handle washing or bathing?

I had the angiogram expecting a stent. I was stunned to hear that my arteries were too blocked to get a stent into them. I don’t think I had much choice after that.

I was in exactly the same position. My understanding is that many cases are not clear-cut – stenting may be an option in the opinion of some, and others may disagree. I was a marginal case and bypass was the preferred recommendation. Like you, I was vehemently against bypass if at all possible. Eventually, after a sort of multi-disciplinary medical consultation, it was deemed that stenting was feasible. It remains to be seen if that was my best long-term choice, but I’m alive and doing fine.

@Exapno_Mapcase, to my limited knowledge based on having done a lot of reading on this subject, but certainly laying no claim to any professional expertise, there is basically good news and bad news. The good news is that cardiac arterial bypass surgery is still regarded as having the best long-term survival rates compared to stenting in cases where both might be considered options. The bad news is that you need to be prepared for a fairly lengthy recovery. You will need help for a time, either from a spouse and/or a home care worker. It’s not something you can do on your own initially.

My final comment is just to say that it’s not clear to what extent you explored the options deeply with both the bypass surgeon and the senior doctors at the catheter lab. I was pretty much consigned to getting bypass until I strenuously objected and the case was re-evaluated. To be clear, the bypass option was probably medically the best course, because having only received stenting (I got three stents) I was still left with so-called “distal” blockages – small obstructions not amenable to stenting, which leaves me with likely having to be on blood thinners indefinitely. So I avoided major surgery, but it’s a real tradeoff.

I hope that bit of background is of some use. But CABG surgery is not something that can be dismissed as minor. The recovery is significant, and you should plan for having home assistance for some initial period.

We didn’t have stairs, but he walked on a fairly steep road. He was able to walk up 3 flights of stairs at his 2 week check up, so I’m fairly sure he could have managed a flight of stairs after a few days. If you have stairs going up to your bedroom, you might want to plan on sleeping downstairs for a week or so. Remember that you can’t use your arms for any weight bearing activities for 6 weeks, so needing to grab a rail would probably be a bad idea.

The first few days he was home, he allowed me to wash him in the bathtub. After that, he showered himself (and even locked the bathroom door so I wouldn’t follow him in and fret).

His doctor suggested we sleep in separate beds because he didn’t want me to put my arms on his chest while I was sleeping. That didn’t happen, but I did make a big pillow barrier between us. Hubs had more problems with his cat wanting to sleep on his chest like she always did.

The biggest issues we had were habits. When you are used to reaching and holding and grabbing things, its really hard to not reach/hold or grab.

Something I thought was pretty interesting, and you might mention this to your wife, but right after the surgery, hubs remembered everything leading up to it as well as afterwards. After he was discharged from the hospital, he started forgetting. At first it was small details, and after a year he could remember having surgery and being in the hospital, but that really is about it. I’m not sure if this is the product of all of the medication he was on, or because his mind thought it was a horrible memory that was best forgotten.

@wolfpup. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor right after the news. He looked at the test results and saw that I have up to 90% stenosis (blockage) in more than one artery. In addition, I had a small stroke in 2005. I’m already on multiple medications like blood thinners and cholesterol reducers. And I’m prone to stenosis. In fact, I may have spinal stenosis but he said no doctor would touch that until I got my heart fixed. If a stent is impossible, I see no alternative.

@JaneDoe42. I’ve been practicing getting up from a seated position without using my hands. But how I’m going to get around the house is still a mystery.

I like the idea of forgetting the whole ordeal. In fact, I’m going to ask to be put on a Versed i.v. :grin:

You are going to be on some serious drugs and won’t really be wanting to do much moving around. Chances are pretty good that you would be happy sleeping on the couch for a couple of weeks.

I once sprained my ankle and couldn’t walk up stairs. I learned to sit on the stairs and use my good leg to push myself up them and then I’d kinda bump my ass down the stairs again. Maybe see if you can do it without using your arms?

You WILL need to do as much walking as you are up to, your recovery will go much faster if you do.

I’m sure your wife is a very nice and loving woman, but she’s going to have to be a little heartless and wake you up when you are sleeping so you can walk or eat or take meds. I really hated waking him up because I knew he needed to sleep, but his doctor put the fear of god in me, so I sucked it up and did things I didn’t want to.

All the best to you, it truly will be an ordeal best forgotten!

Most home medical goods companies will rent you an electric recliner for a few months if you are not interested in owning one permanently. When I was shopping for one a few years ago for a home health care client the price of one was $600-800 at our big furniture store (much more at medical supplies stores). Whichever route you chose I heartily recommend doing the shopping and arranging to have it delivered before you come home from the hospital. If nothing else, it can be a good place to sleep without needing to climb stairs to a bedroom.

The chairs come in sizes-the level of comfort depends on renting/buying the right size. Too big chairs can be uncomfortable and harder to get out of. It you can, visiting a showroom (masked and distanced) and trying out your butt and height in various ones is likeliest to get the best comfort and assistance.

I wasn’t really there for it, but my step father had quadruple bypass surgery. He needed a lot of help for a while, and pretty much refused to let anyone help him except my mom. That was much harder on her than he was aware of, I think.

So my two cents is to be prepared to use a home healthcare nurse if you’ll have one, and other help that’s available to you. Don’t put it all on your wife, or let her take it all on if she tries.

I don’t know particulars but perhaps a nice anecdotal story when I was in middle school in the mid-to-late 90’s my Grandfather had either a triple or quadruple bypass I can’t remember which. Just about a month or so ago he celebrated his 80th birthday and he is still going. He had a physically strenuous job and was still working up until a couple years ago as a contractor. So that’s one data point. Best of luck to you.

I worked at two different hospitals that did open-heart surgery, and probably 90% of the bypass patients left the hospital within a week afterwards.

Good to hear.

I sure do wish I had known this back then. OP, rent one. Seriously, do it tomorrow. It would have made our lives so much easier.

Tonight, I asked hubs what he remembered about his ordeal and he said he remembers being scared worse than when he was in combat. He remembers that I was there the whole time. He also remembers that he thought I was a total bitch when I was making him walk and his entire motivation was to get well enough to beat on me for the first time in our lives.

I guess I was doing it right.

In 2012, I had an aortic valve replacement, plus quadruple bypass. At first they had me on Percocet, and I was having very strange dreams and periodic episodes of paranoia (I had watched a tv show about Hitler, and was convinced that he was out to get me, he knew where I was and that I was helpless). I told the nurse to watch out for him, and she said, “Oh, you’re having a reaction to Percocet.” They put me on Tramadol, and the paranoia vanished.

Once I got home, of course my husband helped out a lot, but I was able to do whatever I wanted, e.g. going up and down stairs, only slowly. I remember being not allowed to change the cat’s litter box, out of fear of infection.

But I was feeling very light-headed, and almost passing out when getting up. I mentioned this at my first check-up, and they re-admitted me for a couple of days, while they adjusted my BP meds.

Other than that, my recovery was fairly non-eventful. I was supposed to go to PT 3x a week, but came down with bronchitis, so never went to PT. In the long run it didn’t make any difference.

In the long run, I’ve suffered no ill effects from the surgery. Of all my current ailments, none are related to my heart. Other than a slight murmur in my new (bovine) aortic valve.

I just want to add that my mention of “exploring the options” was based on the general principle that every patient should be making informed decisions. Needless to say, if your doctors are recommending bypass, it’s very likely to be the best or only option. But who knows.

In my case, when I had my first angiogram, I was told that depending on what they found they might pop in a stent. What they found was stenosis in multiple arteries, and sent me back to my hospital room (I was there following a mild heart attack) with a recommendation for bypass surgery. After educating myself somewhat and pushing back, it turned out that stenting was possible after all. Your case of course may be entirely different but in your position I would want to have a clear understanding of why stenting is not an option, or what the downside would be if you went that route.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember certain buzzwords that I had come across during my researches back when I was going through this, because they were sort of key to some pertinent information I had found. I finally got it. One term was “fractional flow reserve” (FFR). The idea here is that pressure-guided stent placement, where the pressure drop across arterial blockages is measured as a guide for stent placement, is more effective than placement according to X-ray images, and the important point here is that such techniques are enhancing the effectiveness of stenting to the extent that it’s becoming more competitive with bypass surgery. Modern drug-eluding stents are also effective in reducing previously seen side effects. So stenting is becoming more and more viable.

Here’s a brief note about a clinical trial (FAME) now in its third major phase, and still ongoing as far as I know, whose specific intent is to compare the effectiveness of stenting (Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) = stenting) with bypass surgery, when the stenting is guided by FFR. FAME is another buzzword/acronym that sticks with me, because the hospital I was in was a participant in one of the FAME trials. The point of it all being that it seems that as time goes on, the relatively non-invasive nature of stenting is becoming a more viable alternative to bypass.

Again, I’m not suggesting anything more than you should ask questions and get a better understanding of what, if any, options there may be. Any good doctor should welcome the opportunity to more fully explain the situation.

Best of luck. You’ll get through this! :slight_smile:

OP -

Here is my account of what I went through, from 10 years ago (took some searching to find it):

That was interesting to read. Thanks.

I have very different symptoms. I went to my doctor about shortness of breath but I never had any chest pains or palpitations or other indications of a heart problem. BTW, it’s fun to have shortness of breath during COVID. Every time I go anywhere, they read off the COVID symptoms expecting all "no"s and I loudly answer “YES” to that one. Even at the cardiologist’s office. Shouldn’t they know better?

I accompanied my mother-in-law when she got an electric recliner so I know what to look for and how useful they are. That’s a good suggestion.

I’m worried about pain medications. After my back surgery they tried me on hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine and mostly all they did was constipate me. I used ibuprofen when I got home. Which also didn’t help the pain but left out the side effects. Fentanyl is much more powerful, I know, but who needs paranoia in the Age of Trump?

Thanks for all the advice and support.

My MIL said the most pain she had was in her ankle where they got the veins they used. Do they still do it that way? If yes, then it might help to know that’s why you have leg pain; MIL didn’t know why and it worried her until someone explained. (I have noticed that many doctors are not good about warning you of some random things that may happen that might worry you but don’t seem important to them. Ask lots of questions rather than worry in silence.)