Heart Valve Repair
- Answering all questions about your medical history and medications you take. This includes prescribed medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
- Getting pre-operative testing as directed. Testing will vary depending on your age, health, and specific procedure. Pre-operative testing may include a chest X-ray, electrocardiography (ECG), blood tests, and other tests as needed.
- If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about losing weight before the surgery through a healthy diet and exercise plan.
- Not eating or drinking just prior to surgery as directed. Your surgery may have to be cancelled if you eat or drink too close to the start of the procedure due to the risk of complications, such as choking on stomach contents during deep anesthesia.
- Stop smoking as soon as possible. Even quitting for a just few days can be helpful.
- Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed. For a heart valve repair, this may include not taking aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and blood thinners.
Questions to ask your doctor
Facing heart surgery is stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a brief doctor’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. You should contact your doctor with concerns before surgery and between appointments. It is also a good idea to bring a list of questions to your pre-operative appointments. Questions can include:
- Why do I need a heart valve repair? Are there any other options for treating my condition?
- What type of heart valve repair procedure will I need?
- How long will the procedure take? When will I be able to go home?
- What restrictions will I have after the surgery? When can I expect to return to work and other activities?
- What kind of assistance will I need at home?
- What medication plan should I follow before and after the surgery? How do I take my usual medications?
- How will you manage my pain?
- How should I contact you? When should I see you in follow-up? Ask for numbers to call during and after regular hours.
What can I expect after my heart valve repair?
Knowing what to expect can help make your road to recovery after a heart valve repair as smooth as possible.
How long will it take to recover?
After surgery, your care team will move you to an intensive care unit (ICU). ICUs provide 24-hour specialized monitoring and care.
It may take a few hours until the major effects of anesthesia have worn off and you are alert. When you wake up, you may have a breathing tube in your mouth and tubes and wires attached to your body. These allow your team to monitor your vital signs, drain fluids from your chest and bladder, take blood, and give medications and fluids. You will not be able to talk if you have a breathing tube. However, the care team usually removes it within 24 hours.
As you recover, you may move to a hospital room outside the ICU. This room will have the equipment to monitor your heart rhythm and vital signs. Typically, hospital stays range from five to seven days.
Recovery after surgery is a gradual process. How long it will take for you to recover and return to normal activities varies depending on the specific procedure and type of anesthesia used, your general health, age, and other factors. Your doctor will likely refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program to help you recover. Full recovery times range from a few weeks to a few months.
Will I feel pain?
Pain control is an important element to healing and a smooth recovery. Although there will be discomfort after your procedure, you can expect that your doctor and care team will manage your pain effectively so you are comfortable and can get the rest you need. Tell your nurse or team member if you are in pain or if your pain gets worse or changes. After discharge, contact your doctor if you are in pain despite following your pain management plan or if your pain gets worse or changes. Tell a care team member if you are nauseated so it can be treated.
© Copyright 2012 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.