Heart Hugger Aids in Sternal Wound Dehiscence Prevention

preventing medical complications after heart surgery

Wound dehiscence is a serious postoperative condition that can be life-threatening. Wound complications following surgery occur in approximately 2.3% of cardiac or thoracic surgery patients. While most patients will not experience serious wound dehiscence, it's important to understand and follow the proper steps to prevent its occurrence.

Wound Dehiscence Prevention

Heart Hugger Sternum Support Harness provides wound support for cardiac or thoracic surgery patients. Heart Hugger allows patients to apply pressure as needed to support the sternal wound area. The harness encircles the rib cage, and patients squeeze the handles together to apply pressure as needed.

How HEART HUGGER Helps Relieve Suffering Following Heart Surgery

man relieved of pain after heart surgery

As a recovery nurse, you know that reassurance is just as important as the medical care you give your patients following surgery. They've trusted medical professionals to get them through surgery, but they know that for many of the long days and weeks that follow, they'll be at home navigating the recovery process.

For many heart surgery patients, the Heart Hugger Sternum Support Harness helps them better manage their pain during recovery. And because Heart Hugger lets patients decide when to apply pressure, they feel more in control of their pain and the entire healing process.

What You Need to Know About Open Heart Surgery

Surgeon provides Sternum Stabilization

No matter where you go in the medical industry, there's always more to learn. That's especially true when it comes to open-heart surgery. Those three words, in particular, are often shrouded in misunderstanding, discomfort, and worry--so today we'll explore the basics of open-heart surgery, in hopes that understanding will lead to a bit more comfort.

Not Quite Rocket Science

Open-heart surgery is complicated and delicate, yes, but the details tend to get exaggerated in the public mind (which is fair, considering that open heart surgery used to be something very different than it is now). The truth is that open-heart surgery may not be simple, but it's not as bad as we tend to think. Here are some details that might change the way you see this procedure.

"Open-heart" doesn't mean what you think.

Tips for Avoiding Sternal Dehiscence

helpful tips sign

"Complications" is one word you never want to hear--especially when it comes to recovery after heart surgery. The truth is that complications can be a concern, but when you're armed with the right information, a good healing plan, and a little bit of support, it's much easier to avoid problems like sternal dehiscence.

What You Need to Know

Healing is always a journey, which means that it can be a long and winding road sometimes. The good news is that you've got allies on your side. Your doctors and nurses will always give you clear instructions for at-home care, details on what you can and can't do, and explanations for what to expect.

The Importance of Sternum Stabilization In Reducing Pain After Surgery

Sternum Stabilization

Poor or incorrect healing of the breastbone after open heart or valve surgery is a leading cause of patient suffering. Pain and discomfort, while not inevitable, can be reduced with the stabilization of the sternum.

What Is Sternal Instability?

When patients experience discomfort or pain after heart or valve surgery, the cause may be breastbone non-union. Patients suffering from sternum non-union will have a noticeable feeling of instability, clicking, and difficulty breathing. Because the sternum is split from top to bottom during surgery, surgeons put the bones back together either with wires or plates and screws. If these solutions become loose with breathing after surgery, it can lead to sternal instability.

A Definitive Checklist for Before and After Heart Surgery

Heart surgery

Undergoing heart surgery creates a host of emotions. The best way to minimize nervousness is to prepare. Recovery is six to eight weeks long, and steps you take before and after will result in a successful recovery.

Preparing for Heart Surgery

  • Coordinate Support: Compile a list of individuals who are willing to help you, including two primary people who will take care of the bulk of your needs. Have them monitor the number of visitors who come to see you.

  • Prepare Your Body: Retaining a regular exercise schedule and booking massage therapy will aid in preparation for surgery as well as improve recovery time.

  • Set Up an Area of Comfort: Post-surgery you will be unable to lie in bed, so establish a recliner or other comfortable furniture before surgery.

3 Sternal Precautions You Need to Follow After Surgery

Sternum Stabilization

After heart surgery, it’s normal to want to return to everyday activities. Your routine will occur with time, but first, your body needs proper rest to heal the sternum after the procedure. To ensure that you recover and advance at the appropriate rate, there are precautions to take for sternum stabilization.

1. Avoid Lifting Heavy Weights

It can be difficult to adjust to limited exercises, but it will help speed up recovery time. If you are used to performing arm exercises, do not lift anything heavier than ten pounds. For the first eight weeks of your recovery, you should only raise one-half or one pound weights to improve sternum stabilization. Ten bicep curls on each side is a gentle start. Make sure to have a pillow or some form of security harness to protect your sternum.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Preventing Sternal Dehiscence

sternal dehiscence

Recovering from surgery requires care and consideration. In the case of open heart surgery, the sternal bone is cracked to access the heart and then sewn together with wires. Such a sternal wound has a few post-surgery consequences. One such complication is sternal dehiscence or the reopening of the sternal wound. Here are the do’s and don’ts of preventing sternal dehiscence.

What to Avoid Post-Surgery

It’s important to remember that it takes time to ease back into everyday activities. Refrain from returning to regular exercise routines if they include strenuous movement. Lifting heavy weights can cause excessive tension on wound openings. Holding back from asking for help can also negatively impact your recovery. Enlist the help of one dependable family member or friend in the first week or two. Preventing the sternal wound from opening should be your primary priority and will benefit from outside help.

5 Answered Questions About Heart Surgery Recovery

after heart surgery

The more prepared before and after heart surgery you are, the quicker you can recover. Here are five common questions that people typically have about heart surgery recovery and our answers to them.

Heart Surgery Recovery Questions and Answers

1. What Happens Immediately After Heart Surgery?

While you may wake up an hour or two after surgery, most people take a while longer than that. Be prepared for a breathing tube that will be removed in 24 hours. It might be uncomfortable because you are unable to talk. If you are in an intense amount of pain, you can request pain medication. Lastly, there will be bandage covering your incisions which will stay for the next day or so.

2. When Can My Family Visit?

After heart surgery, your family can visit once 45 minutes has passed. Longer visits following this period must be organized around the ICU schedule.


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