Once you are ready to leave the SICU, you will be transferred to a floor where the nurses are specialists in caring for the postoperative cardiac surgical patient. An important part of your recovery is increasing your level of activity and preparing for discharge. Nurses and Physical Therapists will be working closely with you to achieve this goal.

Important Things to Know

There is much you can do to participate in and speed your recovery. Your understanding is important so that you know what to expect.

Pain Management

After your surgery, you will be given medication to keep you as comfortable as possible. This is important so that you can cough and take deep breaths. We pay much attention to managing pain. Your nurses will closely monitor your level of pain and your need for pain medication. You will be asked to rate your pain using a pain scale. You will assign a number to your pain and this will help your nurse understand how much pain you are experiencing.


Getting out of bed and walking will help your recovery and prevent complications. Walking and activity will aid in clearing secretions from your lungs, help your circulation, and help you to regain muscle strength. You will be sitting up in bed and possibly getting out of bed the day of surgery or the day after. You will progress to sitting in a chair and walking to the bathroom with the assistance of your nurse. A physical therapist will also work with you with activities including your first walk and you will then progress to walking several times each day.


It is normal to not feel hungry after having surgery. You will begin by taking sips of liquids and slowly advance to solid food. Good nutrition is important for healing. As you begin to eat a regular diet, try to eat foods with fiber to prevent constipation.

Clearing Secretions

After heart surgery, it is important to clear the lungs of secretions. This promotes good oxygenation, helps to prevent collapse of the lungs and helps prevent infection. Taking deep breaths and coughing helps to accomplish this. Using an incentive spirometer will help. The incentive spirometer is an instrument that encourages you to take deep breaths. You will be given one after your surgery. It is important that you use it several times an hour (at least 10) for several days after your surgery. Deep breathing and coughing exercises after surgery will help keep your lungs healthy.