Are painkillers necessary after a bypass operation?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 18, 2016
Harry asked...

Can I avoid painkillers after a bypass operation? They upset my stomach badly, e.g. cocodamol. Also how long is my chest likely to be painful after the operation? Thanks.

Expert Answers

Carolyn Strimike, N.P. and Margie Latrella, N.P. are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. They have over 40 years of nursing experience in Cardiology between them. The main goal of their work is to counsel, motivate and empower women to adopt healthy lifestyle choices.

Our thoughts are with you as you have your bypass surgery. I worked in the open heart surgery intensive care unit for years and I must say pain control and tolerance is a very individualized situation. Some patients only took tylenol while others took the pain killers every four hours.

Generally, the pain from the chest incision isn't the biggest cause of pain. There really aren't a lot of nerves in the area of the breastbone so many people say it is more of a soreness/achiness. Many complain more of the incisions where the veins are harvested for the bypass, most likely the legs.

I would say that you can try controlling the pain with the milder medications first, like tylenol, and if need be progress to the stronger medications. There are different pain killers, so they should be able to find one that you can tolerate. It is important to try to control any pain well so you can begin walking and moving around as soon as possible after surgery. Early activity may help prevent possible complications later.

The best of luck to you!