What symptoms should I watch for after heart surgery?


After open heart surgery, if you experience pain or redness at the incision, fever or discharge from the wounds, contact your doctor, says Narayana Rattehalli, MD from Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is essential for you to let your doctor know:

  • chills, or fever above 101° F
  • fainting or a severe headache
  • drainage from an incision
  • loss of consciousness
  • pain not relieved by pain medication
  • blood in urine or stool
  • fluttering in the chest or a rapid heart rate (palpitations)
  • shortness of breath that does not go away with rest
  • nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • increased swelling, redness or bruising in or around the incisions
  • marked swelling of legs, ankles and/or feet

If you had heart surgery, watch for these symptoms and call your healthcare provider if they occur:

  • Temperature over 100.4 degrees F for 3 days in a row or any fever over 101.5 degrees F
  • Angina or a "smothering feeling"
  • Racing or irregular heartbeat, especially if accompanied with light-headedness or weakness
  • Pain that limits your daily activities
  • Leg, arm, or sternum incisions that are red or hot to touch
  • Increase in amount of drainage from incisions
  • Change in the color of drainage from incisions, from clear yellow to cloudy white or yellow, possibly with a foul smell
  • Increased swelling or soreness around incisions, especially with a fever
  • Clicking or movement in your sternum after 6 to 8 weeks
  • Calf swelling or tenderness, warmth or pain

In this video, Marshall DeSantis, MD, from Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point, shares that symptoms from open heart surgery are usually minimal, like incisional chest pain. 

Continue Learning about Heart Surgeries

Heart Surgeries

Heart Surgeries

More than a half million surgeries are done each year to correct heart problems in children and adults. One of the most common types of heart surgery performed is coronary artery bypass grafting, which uses a blood vessel taken fr...

om another part of the body to bypass a blocked artery and help prevent a heart attack. Another is heart valve replacement, used to repair heart valves that don't open and close properly. Heart surgery can be minimally invasive, such as when a small incision is made to the chest to insert a pacemaker. At the other extreme is open-heart surgery, which requires a large incision to the chest to open the rib cage and operate on the heart. Learn more about the different kinds of heart surgeries with expert advice from Sharecare.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.