Heart attack

The general ward & discharge home

For some people moving to the general ward, after being in an environment of specialist nursing and high-tech equipment where people were closely monitored could at first seem quite alarming. But it meant that they were getting better and would soon be going home.

People said that during their time on the general ward, they gradually built up their strength by walking around the ward and by doing exercises. One man, who found it noisy on the general ward, persuaded the nurse to move him to a side ward.

It was while they were on this ward that plans were made for their return home. People described meeting the cardiac rehabilitation nurse on the ward; she arranged to visit them at home. They were given information leaflets and advice about exercise, diet and healthy lifestyles.

At this time they were also informed about rehabilitation programmes and given advice about medication and their follow up appointment. Some people found it helpful to have their partners or carers with them at these meetings. One woman described how relieved she was to have been given the phone number of the ward, so that she could ask advice about her medication, the day that she got home from hospital.

Some people were told about the support group in their local area, where they later got advice and information about preventing another heart attack. Not everyone got as much information as they would have liked (see 'Getting information').

One woman said she was given a programme of exercises to do when she got home before starting the cardiac rehabilitation programme.

Before being discharged from hospital, people said they were expected to be able to walk up and down the corridor or a flight of stairs. Often a 'modified' exercise ECG test is done using a treadmill, which will be set at a low level of tolerance. Sometimes an exercise bike is used, if the hospital does not have access to a treadmill. A few men recalled that their treadmill test could not be done or was shortened because the heartbeat had become irregular and they were asked to return to hospital later. One man whose treadmill test caused his heartbeat to become irregular needed to stay in hospital a little longer.

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Some people had the 'full' exercise ECG (also known as the "treadmill test”) which involved a higher level of tolerance, at their follow up appointment. Some people could keep going for only a few minutes, others for over ten minutes. One man advised others to attend for the test in running shoes and comfy clothes.

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People had different feelings about going home. Some felt apprehensive, but were looking forward to starting their rehabilitation. Others said they felt frightened about being at home and no longer having the support of the hospital around them. See 'Coping with emotion after a heart attack' for more about how people felt when they got home from hospital.

Last reviewed June 2017.

Last updated August 2010.


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