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 encouraged not to lift more than 5 or 10 pounds, which can be very limiting. Now all of that is changing because of a new philosophy to speed up rehab and reduce the risk of injuring the incision.
Last August 51-year-old Bobby Brackens had open heart surgery and a quadruple bypass, which required doctors to "crack" his sternum.
Brackens said, "Yes, there was lots of pain. 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."
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Brackens 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."
Jenny Adams, PhD, an Exercise Physiologist from Baylor Scott and White Heart and Vascular Hospital said, "It's an imaginary tube, around your arms, and you just imagine walking around like a T-Rex dinosaur. 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.
"It's a great idea. It's a great idea. Like I say it puts you on the road to recovery a lot faster," Brackens told Ivanhoe.
In the initial study done at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, Florida 80 percent of the 500 patients who got the tube training went home earlier than expected, double the percentage who didn't. And Adams says going home gives the patient a much higher chance of being alive a year later.
Contributors to this news report include: Don Wall, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Mark Montgomery, Videographer.