Physical therapy in the hospital: Formal and "informal" physical therapy are extremely important to your recovery after heart surgery. You may be assigned a physical therapist to work with you during this time. We also remind you that the best thing you can do is walk.
Rehabilitation After Leaving the Hospital
Your physical therapist will assess your physical capabilities and physical needs after surgery. They, too, are experts at discharge planning needs, and are happy to talk with you and your family regarding your needs in the hospital and at home. They are extremely well educated in knowing what exercises are best for you, and about advising you regarding any precautions or restrictions that apply to you once you leave the hospital.
In collaboration with your surgeon, your physical therapist will determine what kind of cardiac rehabilitation is most appropriate for you after you leave the hospital. Some patients benefit from going to an acute-care or sub-acute inpatient rehabilitation facility for seven to ten days, while others can have physical therapy at home. Your social worker will make the arrangements with your surgeon, your inpatient nurse practitioners, and your family about the timing of your hospital discharge; will arrange whatever therapy is recommended for you; and, if needed, will coordinate transportation to a rehabilitation facility after your hospital discharge.
Acute-care inpatient rehabilitation facilities require that you are strong enough to have at least three full hours of therapy a day. This therapy consists of physical therapy, occupational therapy, and if needed, speech therapy. Sub-acute inpatient facilities require only one hour of therapy a day and tend to be less strenuous.
Formal outpatient cardiac rehabilitation usually does not take place until after your body has totally healed (usually after one and a half to two months). Your cardiologist (not your surgeon) will usually arrange the required cardiac stress test prior to beginning cardiac rehabilitation, as well as recommend rehabilitation facilities. Your cardiologist's office will arrange your cardiac outpatient rehabilitation for you.