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Why is my father-in-law having cough after heart surgery?

Q: My 64 years old father-in-law underwent heart bypass surgery last month. He recovered well and was discharged from hospital after a week’s time. After a week he developed continuous cough and his blood test results showed a high WBC count - approx 17,000. He is unable to sleep because the moment he tries to lie down he starts coughing and his stomach starts shaking vigorously and is uncontrollable. The doctors suspect some issue with the diaphragm, however, the ultrasound does not show any abnormality. What could be the cause of his condition? Please advise.

A:Breathing difficulty after bypass surgery can develop for multiple reasons including lung infections, diaphragmatic problems, fluid collection around the lung and failing heart. In view of the fact that the WBC counts are high and he has continuous cough, one has to rule out infection of the lung and pneumonia, which is easily done by a chest x-ray. I think, you should contact your treating cardiac surgeon/cardiologist and they should be able to sort out this problem.

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