You had surgery to repair or replace one of your heart valves. Your surgery may have been done through a large incision (cut) in the middle of your chest, through a smaller cut between 2 of your ribs, or through 2 - 4 small cuts.
Most people spend 3 - 7 days in the hospital. You may have been in the intensive care unit some of the time, in the hospital, you may have begun learning exercises to help you recover more quickly.
It will take 4-6 weeks to heal completely after surgery. During this time, it is normal to:
The following are general recommendations. You may get specific directions from your surgical team. Be sure to follow the advice your doctor gives you.
Have a person who can help you stay in your home for at least the first 1-2 weeks.
Stay active during your recovery. Be sure to start slowly and increase your activity little by little.
Do not drive for at least 4 - 6 weeks after your surgery. The twisting movements needed to turn the steering wheel may pull on your incision.
Expect to take 6 - 8 weeks off work. Ask your doctor when you may return to work.
Do not travel for at least 2 - 4 weeks. Ask your doctor when you can travel again.
Return to sexual activity gradually. Talk openly with your partner about it.
For the first 6 weeks after your surgery, you must be careful how you use your arms and upper body when you move.
Do these things carefully:
Stop any activity if you feel pulling on your incision or breastbone. Stop right away if you hear or feel any popping, moving, or shifting of your breastbone and call your surgeon's office.
Use mild soap and water to clean the area around your incision.
You may take showers, but only for 10 minutes at a time. Make sure the water is lukewarm. Do not use any creams, oils, or perfumed body washes. Apply dressings (bandages) the way your doctor or nurse showed you.
Do NOT swim, soak in a hot tub, or take baths until your incision is completely healed. Keep the incision dry.
Learn how to check your pulse, and check it every day. Do the breathing exercises you learned in the hospital for 4 to 6 weeks.
Follow a heart-healthy diet.
If you feel depressed, talk with your family and friends. Ask your doctor about getting help from a counselor.
Continue to take all your medicines for your heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other conditions you have. Do not stop taking any medicine without talking with your doctor or nurse first.
You may need to take an antibiotic before any medical procedure or when you go to the dentist. Tell all of your health care providers (dentist, doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners) about your heart problem. You may want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
Your doctor may ask you to take blood-thinning medicines to help keep your blood from forming clots. Your doctor might recommend one of these medicines:
Call your doctor or nurse if:
If you are taking blood thinners, call your doctor if you have:
Aortic valve replacement - discharge; Aortic valvuloplasty - discharge; Aortic valve repair - discharge; Replacement - aortic valve - discharge; Repair - aortic valve - discharge; Ring annuloplasty - discharge; Percutaneous aortic valve replacement or repair - discharge; Balloon valvuloplasty - discharge; Mini-thoracotomy aortic valve - discharge; Mini-aortic replacement or repair - discharge; Cardiac valvular surgery - discharge; Mini-sternotomy - discharge; Robotically-assisted endoscopic aortic valve repair - discharge; Mitral valve replacement - open - discharge; Mitral valve repair - open - discharge; Mitral valve repair - right mini-thoracotomy - discharge; Mitral valve repair - partial upper sternotomy - discharge; Robotically-assisted endoscopic mitral valve repair - discharge; Percutaneous mitral valvuloplasty - discharge
Bonow RO, Carabello BA, Chatterjee K, de Leon AC Jr., Faxon DP, Freed MD, et al; 2006 Writing Committee Members; American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force. 2008 Focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2006 guidelines for the management of patiens with valvular heart disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Writing Committee to Revise the 1998 Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Valvular Heart Disease): endorsed by the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Circulation. 2008;118:e523-e661.
Fullerton DA, Harken AH. Acquired heart disease: valvular. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 61.
Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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