Getting back to work after heart operation When and How?

One of the biggest concerns in patients’ minds while considering heart surgery is whether he would be able to do the same work as before. On a positive note let me assure you that most of the patients undergoing heart surgery would return to normal physical activity and work pattern in about 3 months. However this depends on certain factors. Most important of these is the pre-operative condition of the heart and the time required for heart to return to normalcy. For example, if the patient has suffered multiple major attacks in the past and the pumping capacity (LV function and Ejection Fraction) has suffered badly, there would be a limit to the level of physical activity possible after heart surgery. Also, recovery is an individual feature and varies from person to person. Mental strength and preparedness plays an important role in smooth recovery. Some people are back to normal in 4 weeks while some take up to 6 months to recover. It does not matter! As a rule most office work can be resumed after 4-6 weeks. Work involving moderate to severe physical activity (driving, lifting weights, prolonged hours of standing etc.) can be resumed only after 3 months. When you get back to work, start with simple and less strenuous tasks and gradually increase the level of activity. It may be reassuring to know that patients have returned to jobs which require extreme physical strength after undergoing CABG or Valve repair/replacements. I personally know people in almost of walks of life (including Door to door marketing, Public Bus driving, Masonry, Head load work etc.) even after heart surgery. But all these have to be started or resumed after due discussion with your doctor.

Some common concerns ….. What about….?

  • Driving/Riding: Driving a four wheeler with power steering for short distance (up to 5km) can be resumed after 2 months. You can resume normal driving pattern after 3 months. Bike riding is not advisable until 3 months.
  • Travel: Travelling short distances can be done after 3 weeks. But it is better to avoid this if possible. Bus travel is not advisable until 3 months. You can travel by train/air if required. Unrestricted travel can be resumed after 3 months
  • Sports Activities: Light sports can be resumed after 8 weeks (Practice only). You can gradually start the sports activities after 3 months and slowly get back to full activity level.
  • Sex: There will be lot of questions in the minds of patients and their partners regarding sexual activities after heart surgery. Just like any other physical activity, sex can also be resumed gradually. But unlike other activities the emotional aspect plays a major role here. First thing to be reassured is that you can enjoy normal sexual behavior after heart operation. In patients who had dyspnea or angina before surgery, it may even more comfortable and enjoyable after surgery. Partners have to be supportive and encouraging. In case of men, it is advisable to avoid traditional ‘man on top’ position for the first 3-4 months. There is no restriction on kissing, petting or foreplay even during first few weeks. Consult your doctor if you need specific advice.