When the patient goes home: Understanding recovery from heart surgery
Fix, Gemmae Maya
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Purpose. Heart bypass surgery is the most commonly performed major surgery. After surgery, patients should maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. While patients may know that they are supposed to quit smoking, eat a heart-healthy diet, or exercise, social factors impact the uptake of these behaviors. Scope. Recovery occurred within a social context that comprised employment history, household structure, lifestyle, and recent life events. A multi-method approach provided a comprehensive, clinically and socially informed understanding of post-surgical health to determine which factors in the social environment were important to a successful recovery. Methods. Participants were recruited during an appointment at a Veteran Affairs Medical Center. Qualitative (interview, observation) and quantitative (clinical, heart-health, anthropometrics) data were collected over a post-operative period to create a biosocial picture of recovery. Interviews addressed the surgical experience, heart-health behaviors, and social barriers and facilitators to recovery. Data were combined for analysis. Results. A primary factor affecting recovery was existence of a negative social support. "Exercise" and a "healthy diet" had a range of meanings; diabetics focused on sugar-friendly foods, exercise was limited in those with physical ailments. Health perceptions did not necessarily match medical records; some thought surgery eliminated heart disease, while others were unsure what "heart disease" meant. Behaviors of household members contributed to recovery.