Coronary Artery Bypass Graft (CABG) Post-Surgical Complications

There are many signs and symptoms of post-surgical complications to watch for after discharge home from the hospital.

Helpful Highlights

  • There are complications associated with surgery, in general, and there are complications unique to bypass surgery (CABG).

  • Surgical site infection is the most frequent complication.

  • There are times to call the cardiologist or primary care provider, and there are times to call for emergency services (9-1-1).

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Surgical complications, in general

For any of the following symptoms, contact the cardiologist or primary care provider.

  • Increased swelling, redness, or tenderness around the incision site(s).

  • A change in color around the incision site(s), such as blue, brown, grey/green, or black.

  • Bleeding from the incision site(s).

  • Increased oozing of fluid from the incision site(s), especially if discolored or smelly.

  • New or worsened pain around the incision site(s), especially if not relieved with medication.

  • Altered toileting habits (especially if difficult or unable to pee or poop).

  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, and/or lower legs.

  • Fever*, or even below normal body temperature.

*Note that half of older adults aged 55 and over do not mount a fever response. (Fever is taken to mean > 100.4F/38C on 2 consecutive days or > 102.2F/39C on any one day.)

Post-CABG complications

For any of the following symptoms, contact the cardiologist or primary care provider.

  • Rapid heart rate or heart palpitations.

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • Blood in urine or stool.

  • Grinding/clicking sensation in the chest.

  • Persistent fever or below normal body temperature that doesn't respond to medication.

  • Marked swelling of the feet, ankles, and/or lower legs.

  • Persistent shortness of breath during, or for a long time after approved activities.

  • A feeling of fullness in the chest.

Call for an ambulance (9-1-1)

  • Shortness of breath that does not go away with rest.

  • Chest pain that is not from the incision.

  • Difficulty breathing (labored or can't seem to catch it).

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded at rest.

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness.

  • Severe headache.

  • Drooping of the face or weakness on one side of the body.

  • Slurred or distorted speech.

  • Sudden onset of confusion or delirium.

  • Shaking chills, especially with an increase or decrease in temperature.

  • Rapid heart rate causing great discomfort.

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