YOUR HEALTH: A more rigorous recovery for heart surgery patients

DALLAS, Texas – Last August, 51-year old Bobby Brackens had open heart surgery and a quadruple bypass, which required doctors to "crack" his sternum.

"Yes, there was lots of pain," he recalled.

"Of course, they give you pain medication, but as far as moving around, you weren't able to move, move kind of gingerly because of the pain."

Bobby recovered in three weeks, faster than the usual four to six, because of a new cardiac rehab philosophy called "Keep Your Move in the Tube".

"It's an imaginary tube, around your arms, and you just imagine walking around like a T-Rex dinosaur," explained Jenny Adams, an Exercise Physiologist at Baylor Scott and White Heart and Vascular Hospital.

"You can do anything you want is my advice now as long as you keep your move in the tube."

The idea is not to put stress on the wires that are used to hold the sternum together while it heals.

By keeping "the move in the tube", some cardiac patients can lift a lot more than the old recommendation of nothing more than five pounds.

And by going home sooner, they improve their chances of healthy living for as long as ten to 15 years.

"So going home saves lives," said Adams.

More than 300,000 sternotomies are performed every year in the United States, most commonly for coronary bypass surgery and mitral aortic valve replacement.

Patients are  often encouraged not to lift more than 5 or 10 pounds, which can be very limiting.

Now all of that is changing because of this new philosophy to speed up rehab and reduce the risk of injuring the incision.

"It's a great idea," said Brackens.

"It's a great idea. Like I say it puts you on the road to recovery a lot faster."

In the initial study done at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, 80% of the 500 patients who got the tube training went home earlier than expected.  It was double the percentage over those who didn't.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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