Heart Valve Replacement
What to expect the day of your heart valve replacement
You will likely be admitted to the hospital the day before your heart valve replacement surgery. For minimally invasive procedures, you will probably report to the hospital the morning of your surgery. Before your surgery, you can generally expect to:
- Talk with a pre-operative nurse. The nurse will perform an exam and ensure that all needed tests are in order. The nurse can also answer questions and will make sure that you sign the surgical consent.
- Remove all clothing and jewelry and dress in a hospital gown. It is a good idea to leave all jewelry and valuables at home or with a family member. The surgical team will respect your privacy and give you blankets for modesty and warmth in the surgical suite.
- Talk with the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about your medical history and the type of anesthesia you will have.
- A surgical team member will start an IV.
- About an hour before your surgery begins, you will receive medication to help you rest comfortably.
- A surgical team member will insert a urinary catheter. This may occur after you have had anesthesia.
- The anesthesiologist will start your anesthesia.
- Your surgery may involve a heart-lung machine (cardiopulmonary bypass). This machine temporarily takes over the heart’s job of pumping oxygen-rich blood to the organs and tissues. This is the traditional type of open heart surgery. It allows the surgeon to operate on a heart that is not beating and has no blood traveling through it.
- The surgical team will monitor your vital signs and other critical body functions. This occurs throughout your surgery and recovery until you are alert, breathing effectively, and your vital signs are stable.
What are the risks and potential complications of a heart valve replacement?
Any surgery involves risks and potential complications. Complications may become serious and life threatening in some cases.Complications can develop during the procedure or throughout your recovery.
General risks of surgery
The general risks of surgery include:
- Adverse reaction or problems related to anesthesia, such as an allergic reaction and problems with breathing
- Bleeding, which can lead to shock
- Blood clots, in particular a deep vein thrombosis that develops in the leg or pelvis. A blood clot can travel to your lungs, heart or brain and cause a pulmonary embolism, heart attack, or stroke.
- Infection and septicemia, which is the spread of a local infection to the blood
Potential complications of a heart valve replacement
Complications of a heart valve replacement can be serious and even life threatening. You can best reduce the risk of potential complications and help manage complications if any occur by following the treatment plan you and your surgeon design specifically for you. Potential complications include:
- Heart attack
- Heart arrhythmias or problems with heart rhythm
- Kidney failure
- Memory problems
- Post-pericardiotomy syndrome, which is a low-grade fever and chest pain for up to six months following open heart surgery. A pericardiotomy is a surgical incision of the sac that surrounds the heart.
Reducing your risk of complications
You can reduce the risk of certain complications by following your treatment plan including:
- Ensuring that all members of you care team are aware of any allergies you have
- Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before surgery and during recovery
- Informing your doctor or radiologist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility that you may be pregnant
- Notifying your doctor immediately of any concerns, such as bleeding, fever, increase in pain, or wound redness, swelling or drainage
- Taking your medications exactly as directed
How do I prepare for my heart valve replacement?
You are a very important member of your own health care team. The steps you take before surgery can help improve your outcome after the procedure. You can prepare yourself for a heart valve replacement by:
In this article
- What is a heart valve replacement?
- Why is a heart valve replacement performed?
- How is a heart valve replacement performed?
- What are the risks and potential complications of a heart valve replacement?
- How do I prepare for my heart valve replacement?
- What can I expect after my heart valve replacement?
© 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.