After you have surgery to correct a vascular problem, you will play a key role in your own recovery. It is important to understand and follow your doctor’s instructions to help ensure a positive outcome.
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Your healthcare team will advise you on the medications you should take. They also will recommend a plan for follow-up so your doctor can make sure you are doing well and proceeding along a standard path to recovery after you leave the hospital.
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After a procedure, we usually ask you to limit your activity for a time. This may vary from a day or two to a month, depending on the procedure, other medical conditions you have and your outlook for recovery.
1. Get active as soon as you can
It’s important to resume activities as much as you are able as quickly as is safe and reasonably possible. Most recovery occurs within the first several weeks after surgery and your participation is a key component in having a good outcome. To do this, work with your physical therapists to improve your activity and function level. Occupational and speech therapists also may assist you. It’s important to do your best to work with these specialists as soon as you are able.
2. Ask about resuming medications
Taking your medications after surgery is important as well. In most cases, you will take the same medications you took before surgery. However, your medications or their dosing may change. It is important to review this information with your physician, your nursing team and your family so you are clear on what you are taking and comfortable with the dosing and timing.
3. Take blood thinners with care
For patients with vascular reconstructions — especially those who have had a blocked artery or vein repaired — it is important that you stay on blood-thinning medications. These may include aspirin, Plavix® and Coumadin®. You may be on one of them, or any of them in combination. Make sure you know the correct dosing. Your doctors may want to monitor the dosage after you leave the hospital to make sure you are not having trouble with bleeding while taking any of these medications.
For patients who have had stents placed for a blocked artery, aspirin and Plavix are a usual combination prescribed for at least the first month, and possibly up to six months after surgery. These agents help keep these stents from becoming narrow. It is extremely important to work with your physicians by taking these medicines as prescribed to reduce the risks of recurring the narrowing of the arteries or clotting within the stents themselves.
4. Make lifestyle changes
The most important part of your recovery is your participation as a team member in your own care. This means adjusting your lifestyle, possibly to avoid some activities you may have been doing prior to your hospitalization.
Most notably, if you smoke and can stop, this is probably the single most important way to assure a positive outcome from your surgery. Working with a smoking cessation clinic can ensure that you get the best support to help you kick the smoking habit and enjoy an extended lifetime, a reduced risk of cancer and a reduced risk of recurrence of your vascular disease.
Dietary changes and getting regular exercise also are important parts of the recovery process. A physical therapist can help direct your exercise program. Or, you can plan your own regular physical activity. It’s an important part of your overall health maintenance and will help improve your outcome after surgery.
Your healthcare team will also offer diet guidelines. You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure and recurrence of your vascular disease by limiting the salt and fatty foods you eat.
Plavix® is a registered trademark of Sanofi-Aventis.
Coumadin ® is a registered trademark of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company.