Sex After Cardiac Surgery

Ria Torr, MD, NP - Adult, talks about sex after heart surgery.

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Ria Torr, MD, NP - Adult, talks about sex after heart surgery.
Video transcript

Featuring Ria Torr, MD, NP – Adult

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

After cardiac surgery, patients are often apprehensive to ask about sex. They’re either embarrassed or they’re so stressed they forget to ask the question. But it’s important to realize that intimacy can resume immediately after surgery. It can be something as simple as touching your loved one’s arm, or holding their hand.

Cardiac surgery is very stressful on your whole body, and it may take up to four weeks before you actually have enough endurance to participate in sexual activity. A good rule is if you can do two flights of stairs, so 24 steps up or a flight up and a flight down, but you have enough endurance to do the deed.

It’s important to remember that your partner cannot put their hands on your shoulders, collarbone or ribs, as these might be too tender. That would take at least six to eight weeks to start resolving. The person who had the surgery has to be in a comfortable position. That means either laying or sitting – no standing and no kneeling. And the partner who didn’t have the surgery – they have to do all the work. Think about what that means.

Also after heart surgery, people might find that where their skin is still healing, the nerves are very sensitive. That takes longer to heal, and you might find it’s uncomfortable – even soft touch – for months after your surgery.

Some of our cardiac medication also interferes with sexual performance. When you’re discharged home, you’ll have medication that you’re on to just help you recover from the surgery. These may be discontinued in a couple of months. But other medication is meant to be lifelong, to help your heart continue to function properly.

You’ll follow up with your cardiologist after surgery, and they are the appropriate physician to ask of which meds can be discontinued, and which meds you’ll have to continue. But they can also work on a dose that maximizes your heart recovery but doesn’t interfere with your performance. If you do have some performance issues, this is also the person you want to speak to about using performance enhancers such as Viagra.

Other things that you can do to maximize your sexual performance is go to cardiac rehab. This is designed to strengthen your heart, but it also strengthens your body to improve your endurance. So in summary, if you have any questions about sex or intimacy after surgery, ask your cardiovascular team or your cardiac rehab team. They’re there to help you understand what you can and can’t do safely.

Presenter: Ria Torr, Nurse, Newmarket, ON

Local Practitioners: Nurse

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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