The South’s leader in minimally invasive and robotic cardiovascular and thoracic surgery


Frequently Asked Questions

How long should I wait to resume upper body exercise after surgery?
If you have had a sternal incision then you should refrain from upper body exercise for two months. Specifically:

  • Do not lift, push or pull anything over 5 lbs for 2 months
  • Do not drive for one month
  • No swimming for two months
  • After two months there are typically no restrictions.

If you had a non sternotomy minimally invasive operation. You may resume normal activities in two weeks.

What is normal blood pressure?

Normal blood pressure is stated as 120/80. The top number (systolic pressure) represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) is the minimum pressure in the artery as the heart relaxes after contraction.

If I have an artificial heart valve should I be concerned about dental work?

Bacteria may enter the blood stream during dental procedures.  These bacteria may then cause an infection called bacterial endocarditis, in the tissue surrounding an artificial heart valve. It is best to take an antibiotic if you have an artificial heart valve, or have had a valve repaired.

When is it safe to start exercising after surgery?

You should be up and walking three times a day. Walk at your own pace. Stop and rest if you get tired. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise because it increases circulation throughout the body and to the heart muscle. You should try to increase your walking daily.

Is constipation normal after surgery?

Constipation is a common complaint after surgery due to inactivity and/or pain medication. Any over the counter laxative is acceptable such as: milk of magnesium, stool softeners, fiber supplements, enema or suppository if needed. Ask your local pharmacist.

How long do I have to wait after surgery to drive?

Avoid driving, outdoor bicycling, or motorcycle riding for six weeks after surgery. This is recommended to allow your breastbone to heal. When traveling, be sure to get out of the car every 2 hours and walk around for 5-10 minutes to help prevent blood clots. For patients having minimally invasive surgery or robotic operations, you may return to driving typically 2 weeks after surgery.

When can I return to work after surgery?

Most patients begin to feel like returning to work 6 to 12 weeks after surgery. Your surgeon will advise you when you can return to work at your follow-up visit 3 to 6 weeks after surgery. For patients having minimally invasive or robotic surgery, you may return to full activities typically within two weeks of surgery.

What should I eat after heart/valve surgery?

Regular home diet. No added salt. Switch to low fat, low cholesterol diet when appetite returns. For patients on coumadin you will need to avoid uncooked vegetables.

How soon after surgery can I have sex?

You can resume sexual relations when you feel comfortable. For many people this is between 2 to 4 weeks after discharge, unless instructed differently by your doctor. Ask your nurse for more detailed information if needed.

How often should I clean my incision?

You should shower in the morning and clean incisions two times a day with soap and water, peroxide or wound cleanser. Avoid lotions, creams, and ointments on incisions. Avoid soaking in baths until your incisions are healed.

How will I know if something is wrong with my incision(s)?

There are five ways to tell if your incision is infected:

  • If the incision becomes red
  • If you feel warmth around the incision
  • If your pain increases
  • If you start to experience puss drainage
  • If you start running a fever

I live by myself. How much help after surgery will I need at home?

Everybody needs some support after surgery. The amount of support will depend on how functional you were before your operation and how well you tolerated surgery. Normally, you can ride in a car, do minimal cooking and perform basic shower / toiletry activities. For a few weeks, these activities may take you longer than normal to perform. Initially, you will not be able to drive or lift heavy loads. Having someone to assist with shopping and some of your daily activities is usually all that is needed until you are driving again.

Will I have a lot of pain?

Most patients experience some pain. We use a variety of medications that will keep you comfortable. Your nurse will regularly evaluate your discomfort and offer pain medications. Keeping you comfortable is very important so you can participate in walking, breathing and self-care activities necessary for recovery.

What is the average length of stay?

Many patients are able to leave the hospital in three to four days after surgery. Our team will discuss your discharge plans with you postoperatively.

What are the risks and complications?

As with any surgery, there are certain risks that the patient should be aware of. The amount of risk will vary based on your general health status prior to the procedure. These risks can include, but are not limited to, bleeding, up to and including transfusion: infection; damage to major organs including the kidneys, which may require temporary or permanent dialysis; difficultly with breathing, requiring long-term ventilation; the risk for neurologic injury or stroke; the risk for heart attack, irregular heart rhythms, heart failure, or death. However, advances in how the surgery is performed and how patients are managed afterwards have led to a steady decline in complication rates.

Minimally Invasive Surgery FAQ

What are the advantages of minimally invasive surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery is generally less stressful on the body and requires less recovery time. It also generally means a shorter hospital stay, less pain and scarring, which means less risk of infection and less blood loss.

What makes a surgery “minimally invasive”?

Avoiding cutting through the breastbone and opening the ribs. The physicians operate through tiny incisions made between the ribs. It has become standard-of-care for particular surgical procedures, although, it has not been widely adopted for more complex or delicate procedures.

Robotic Surgery FAQ

What are the benefits of using the da vinci Surgical System when compared with traditional methods of surgery?

Greater surgical precision, increased range of motion, enhanced visualization and improved access.

Does the Robot perform the surgery on its own?

The da Vinci Surgical System cannot run on its own. Instead, the system is designed to seamlessly replicate the movement of the surgeon’s hands with the tips of micro-instruments. The system cannot make decisions, nor can it perform any type of movement or maneuver, without the surgeon’s direct input.

Is da Vinci surgery covered by insurance?

Any insurance that covers open cardio thoracic surgery will also cover da Vinci Robotic or minimally invasive surgery. It is important to note that your coverage will depend on your plan and benefits package.

**For patients having a robotic or minimally invasive operation, you may resume normal activities in 2 weeks**

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Please call our office at 205.716.6900 to schedule a consultation to discuss your medical need.

Our Services

At Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons, P.C., we specialize in the surgical treatment of heart, lung/thoracic, and vascular diseases.

Providing a cutting-edge approach with the highest quality of patient care.

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Our Location

Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons, P.C.

2871 Acton Road Suite 100, Birmingham, AL 35243

Phone:  205.716.6900