OSF St. Joseph Medical Center

Bloomington, Illinois

Coronary Artery Bypass (Heart Surgery)

Coronary artery bypass, or heart surgery, is a surgery performed to create a bypass to permit blood flow around a narrowed coronary artery.

Open heart surgery is used for many heart problems such as treating coronary heart disease, repairing heart valves, or placing medical devices

Every patient is unique, and our physicians will work closely with you to individualize your care and needs.


OSF St. Joseph Medical Center performs most open heart surgeries using an off-pump technique. This technique still requires a medial sternotomy incision, but does not require a cardiopulmonary bypass pump. This technique has proven to reduce the overall risk of open heart surgery resulting in a shorter hospital stay with fewer complications.   

Preparing for Your Surgery

Patients work closely with our doctors and nurses prior to the procedure. During this time, you will be instructed not to eat or drink anything after midnight before your procedure. Our staff will inform you what medications you can take the morning of your surgery. 

What to Expect

It is normal to feel some level of anxiety before your procedure. Our surgeons and staff are extremely caring and are here to answer all of your questions to give you peace of mind. 

The registration process varies depending on the scheduled time of the procedure. You will be given detailed instructions during your office visit. 

The procedure takes approximately four to six hours. You should expect to stay in the hospital for at least four days. During your stay you will be seen by many people including our Cardiac Rehabilitation staff.


You will be spending a few days in the intensive care unit (ICU), closely monitored by the nursing staff. Our goal is to have you up and moving as soon as possible after your open heart surgery.

At the time of your discharge, you will be given a follow-up appointment for two weeks after surgery. You will be provided with instructions on a home walking program to be used before your follow-up appointment.

After heart surgery, it is important to learn how to take your pulse. Have your caregiver show you how to do this.

Use your incentive spirometer. Ask your caregiver how long after surgery you need to use it.

Care of your chest incision

  • Tell your doctor right away if you notice clicking in your chest (sternum).
  • Support your chest with a pillow or your arms when you take deep breaths and cough.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about when you can bathe or swim.
  • Protect your incision from sunlight during the first year after surgery to keep the scar from getting dark.
  • Tell your doctor if you notice:
    • Increased tenderness of your incision.
    • Increased redness or swelling around your incision.
    • Drainage or pus from your incision.

Care of your leg incision(s)

  • Avoid crossing your legs.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time. Change positions every half hour.
  • Elevate your leg(s) when you are sitting.
  • Check your leg(s) daily for swelling.
  • Check the incisions for redness or drainage.
  • Wear your elastic stockings as told by your caregiver. Take them off at bedtime.


Diet is very important to heart health. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Meats should be lean cut. Avoid canned, processed, and fried foods. Talk to a dietician - they can teach you how to make healthy food and drink choices.


  • Weigh yourself every day. This is important, because it helps to know if you are retaining fluid that may make your heart and lungs work harder. Use the same scale each time.
  • Weigh yourself every morning at the same time. You should do this after you go to the bathroom, but before you eat breakfast.
  • Your weight will be more accurate if you do not wear any clothes.
  • Record your weight.
  • Tell your doctor if you have gained two pounds or more overnight.


Stop any activity at once if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, or dizziness. Get help right away if you have any of these symptoms.


Avoid soaking in a bath or hot tub until your incisions are healed.


You need a balance of rest and activity.


Exercise per your doctor's advice. You may need physical therapy or cardiac rehabilitation to help strengthen your muscles and build your endurance.

Climbing stairs

Unless your doctor tells you not to climb stairs, go up stairs slowly and rest if you tire. Do not pull yourself up by the handrail.

Driving a car

Follow your doctor's advice on when you may drive. You may ride as a passenger at any time. When traveling for long periods of time in a car, get out of the car and walk around for a few minutes every two hours.


Avoid lifting, pushing, or pulling anything heavier than 10 pounds for six weeks after surgery or as told by your doctor.

Returning to work

Check with your doctor. People heal at different rates. Most people will be able to go back to work six to 12 weeks after surgery.

Sexual activity

You may resume sexual relations as told by your doctor.


Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • All your medicines in the original containers, including any vitamins and herbal supplements you may take
  • Your insurance card and/or Medicare card
  • A completed Medical History form
  • A government issued photo ID (Driver's license, etc.)

Should you need to cancel your appointment for any reason, please call 24-hours in advance whenever possible. If you cannot call at least 24-hours ahead, please call as soon as you know you need to cancel. Chances are, another patient can use your appointment time.