Heart Bypass Surgery (CABG - Coronary Artery Bypass Graft)

Hello all,
Unfortunately, at the ripe old age of 49, I will be undergoing a Heart Bypass surgery soon. While I don’t know the recuperation time (varies according to fitness/age etc), I will be off the bike for at least 2 months (I think), then I plan to start slowly with Zone 1/2 rides on my Kickr at home. I have a meeting with the surgeon later this week to decide on the surgery date.
I was wondering if anyone on here has been through it. I have a few questions.

  1. How long did you need to get back on the bike (at home or on the road)?
  2. Once fully recovered, were you able to return to your normal rides/Gran fondos/challenging rides?
  3. Did you have to cut back on any aspect of cycling?
  4. Any other experiences you want to share post-surgery?

Thank you.

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No experience - but would like to wish you the best for surgery. Thereafter just see how your body feels and you can always improve- no worries

Following. The second week of Dec I’m going in for an aortic graft with either valve-sparing aortic valve repair, or more likely per my surgeon, aortic valve replacement. Full sternotomy procedure. Very interested in post-surgical experiences from those here.

FWIW, a friend is the recently-retired head of PT for one of our hospital systems and the cardiac rehab unit was part of her group. She is a multi-time Ironman triathlete, cyclist, runner and nordic skier. We’re meeting to get her insights on how people recover and what’s possible for us endurance athletes post-major surgery. I’ll share insights here as I can.

There are a number of YouTube videos with cyclists who are riding post bypass and/or valve replacement surgeries.

Hello Hampstenfan,
Thank you. Pls do share the feedback from your friend. Looks like she is a mega athlete. My surgery is on Dec 6, 2023. I hope to start cycling on my Kickr within a month.

A friend had open heart surgery for blocked coronary arteries in May 22. He was 44. I can’t remember the timescales but he has returned to more vigorous exercise. He’s got a thing for Hyrox now, thus he doesn’t ride as much as before, but when he does he seems to do okay. Not as fit on bike as before, but that’s because his exercise took a different route after.

Good luck with the surgery. As I’ve said to others, don’t try too much too soon, and play the long game when it comes to recovery.

You’re a week ahead of me on the surgery schedule – best wishes!

Great timing for your followup as I had lunch with my friend yesterday (FYI, she has qualified for triathlon Worlds in Spain Oct 2024).

Boiling down the details of her advice comes to this (reading from the notes I took as we talked):
Take time to heal. Surgery is a major insult to the body, and us athletes are often too eager to return. As @GoLongThenGoHome posted ‘play the long game.’
*Most surgeons will prescribe a cardiac rehab program to start 2-4 weeks after surgery. Follow the process your cardiac rehab team sets up for you (she recommends everyone enroll in a formal program). Your experience is n=1; theirs is n=hundreds or more. Her center assumes 2-3x per week for 10-12 weeks.
stretch out the rehab as long as possible; that is, most insurance allows x number of rehab visits. Work with your team to get assigned home or gym work you can do solo (one they’ve cleared you through baseline telemetry during a couple of rehab sessions in between sessions at the rehab center.
on’t freak out if someone in rehab at the same time you’re there codes** while working out. It happens, the team is ready for it. I/we have the advantage of this being planned surgery vs many people who are still coming to grips with having ended up in the ER with a heart attack.
*You’ll start on a treadmill and can move to a stationary bike. Realize your sternotomy needs immobilization to heal, so put your bike/trainer out of mind as you’ll need something upright where you don’t have to use handlebars.
*When strength training is added to your rehab, it will start with lower body, and when you move to upper body don’t be surprised at the 1# weights they hand you. Stay humble and use them, progressing as the team sees fit.
*Trust the professionals – and establish good communications. Tell them your abilities/activities up to now, and what you want to return to. They’ll help build a program toward that. And if you’re wondering about anything talk to them – they have the ear of your surgeon.
*You can’t have too many pillows at home to prop yourself into the most comfortable position possible – which probably still won’t be comfortable.
*Expect this to be pretty painful for a while; the sternotomy is the big thing and it can take 8-9 months to fully heal even though in a couple months you’ll have significant improvement.

So with all that challenging stuff, she said the good news is post-rehab I should be able to work hard again and continue loving my time on the bike, skis, trails.

Again, best wishes to you for an effective surgery and strong recovery!

edited to add:
*apparently button or full zip tops should be my friends. No raising hands overhead or reaching out to the side for a while.
*ditto for step in shoes so one doesn’t need to go through bending over and trying to tie laces – or even pull velcro straps.