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After heart surgery, people may feel fatigue and pain; this is natural. On the other hand, it may seem strange to start physical therapy after surgery instead of resting. However, this is exactly what we recommend.
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Types of heart surgery include bypass surgery, angioplasty, stents, heart valve replacement, and even heart transplants. Patients who have all of these procedures can benefit from physical therapy. Patients with other heart problems can also use physical therapy; they include victims of heart attack, heart failure, peripheral artery disease, chest pain, and cardiomyopathy.
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Physical therapy will usually begin within a few weeks of heart surgery, if not sooner. The first step is a stress test performed by a nurse or doctor to determine how much exercise a person can tolerate. This includes walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while the individual’s vital signs are monitored.
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Once the data has been collected and analyzed, a physical therapy program is put into place. For safety reasons, it is common practice to first bring cardiac surgery patients to a hospital or outpatient clinic for exercise.
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Under the watchful eye of nurses and physical therapy staff, the cardiac surgery patient will be cared for while performing the exercise. This way, professionals will be alerted if the heart surgery patient develops troublesome symptoms. The exercises performed are cardiovascular exercises, such as walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bicycle.
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After the initial phase of monitored physical therapy has passed, the heart surgery patient will be sent home to do the exercise. Before they go, however, they will be taught warm-up and stretching exercises and when to stop. In general, they should exercise three to five times a week, unless they have a problem.
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Swimming is another form of exercise that is especially good for heart surgery patients. It is a cardiovascular exercise that is not hard on the joints, so it is usually kept up for a longer period of time. The only thing to remember is that all wounds must heal completely first.
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Physical therapy for cardiac surgery patients is often not performed by physical therapists. Nurses in hospitals and clinics who are trained in cardiac surgery rehabilitation will handle these aspects. However, physical therapists will sometimes provide assistance, and the principles are the same.
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The physical therapist will instruct the patient on what activities can be performed in the weeks and months following surgery. During the first six weeks, only a few activities are allowed, such as doing simple chores or going to the movies. From then until the third month, more activities will be added. You may be able to return to work, at least part-time, and you may be able to drive. After this time, your physical therapist will work with you to ease you back into all of your previous activities.
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If a patient has heart surgery and then doesn’t do anything to regain strength, that patient will quickly become weaker. Physical therapy offers a way to stay in shape or get into shape. It provides more purpose to heart surgery by making the patient healthier than they were before the surgery.