St. Joseph Hospital of Orange
1100 West Stewart Dr, Orange, CA 92868714.633.9111
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Activity after Surgery

Once you are awake and the breathing tube is removed, you will be sitting in a chair for all three meals.

You will also be given an Incentive Spirometer, a small, hand-held device used to measure how well you are filling your lungs. The Incentive Spirometer also encourages you to circulate air in your lungs. You should use the Incentive Spirometer 10 times every hour while awake. This helps improve breathing and prevents an infection in your lungs. Deep breathing and coughing are also important to remove any leftover fluids out of the lungs. You will be given a heart pillow to splint your chest area while coughing or deep breathing. This helps to decrease pain and allows the sternal bone to heal.


Pain is something that can’t be avoided with open-heart surgery, but it can be alleviated by various techniques including:

  • Medication
  • Using a heart pillow to splint the chest area when coughing, deep breathing or more
  • Relaxation techniques

Pain is an individual experience for each patient. In order to alleviate pain it takes communication and teamwork between the patient and the clinical staff.

Transfer Out of the Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU)

Once you are stable and the lines in your neck and wrist have been removed, you will be transferred to the Telemetry Unit located on the fourth floor of the hospital. You will have more independence while on the Telemetry Unit, which will prepare you to return home.

Telemetry Unit Visiting Hours

Visiting hours on the Telemetry Unit are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Please limit visitors to two at a time and make visits short. You need rest in preparation to return home.


Once on the Telemetry Unit you will be expected to start walking in the hallway three times a day until discharge. The first couple of walks should be with the nurse. As the nurse feels appropriate you will be allowed to walk independently in the halls.

Breathing Exercises

While on the Telemetry Unit, you will continue using the Inventive Spirometer and continue deep breathing exercises with the heart pillow.


Pain will decrease as time passes. If the pain is not being controlled please let the nurse or physician know.