An aortic valve replacement is when the aortic valve is replaced with an artificial valve. This surgery is needed when a patient has severe aortic stenosis, which is when the heart muscle can’t pump enough blood because of how narrow the opening of the valve has become or if the aortic valve is leaky, causing some blood to leak backward through the valve instead of the rest of the body. For the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the chest area to access and replace the damaged valve.
Recovery from an aortic valve replacement is a critical time period. Patients must follow their doctor’s instructions and report any changes to their healthcare team.
Things You Should Know About Recovery From an Aortic Valve Replacement
- After the surgery, you will likely be instructed to stay in the hospital for a few days to a week after surgery. This is to monitor your heart and ensure no issues or complications have occurred.
- You must have someone drive you home from the hospital and stay with you for at least the first 24 hours. This is to ensure you acclimate to your home properly and can manage to take care of your essential needs.
- It is normal to feel achiness, soreness, or discomfort in the first few weeks after the surgery. You will also notice that you get tired easily. These symptoms will get better as time passes. Patients report a vast improvement after four to six weeks.
- You will need to take it easy for at least a week after you are discharged from the hospital. Avoid strenuous activities and lifting heavy objects during this time and up until you have reached the six-week mark.
- Take your temperature and weight daily. A temperature reading of 100.4 and over should be brought to the attention of your doctor, as it could be a sign of infection.
- Your doctor will probably prescribe blood thinners or anticoagulants to help prevent blood clots from forming on your new valve or in the surrounding arteries. Be sure to take these medications as directed and monitor yourself for any signs of bleeding or bruising, also called ecchymosis. Contact your doctor if you have any concerns about or have severe symptoms after taking these medications.
- It is important to eat a healthy diet and get plenty of rest during your recovery period. Foods high in protein, iron, and antioxidants are especially important. Some specific examples of good foods to eat during recovery include lean meats, leafy green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
- You may notice your bowel movements are not normal. Anesthesia and the medications you take after surgery may cause constipation. If you are constipated, ask your doctor about taking laxatives to become more regular.
- Follow up with your surgeon as directed and make sure to keep all appointments with your cardiologist. For example, you will need to have your stitches and staples removed in a follow-up visit a week after the surgery. Checkups ensure your condition is monitored regularly and any complications are brought to your doctor’s attention in a timely manner.
- Most people who have had an aortic valve replacement feel much better within a few months after surgery. The procedure is greatly beneficial, but you will likely feel pain until you’ve fully recovered. Your breast bone should heal in about six weeks. After that, you will not feel pain any longer.
Patients recovering from an aortic valve replacement need support during their recovery – this includes physical and emotional support from friends and family. If you are considering surgery, make sure to put together a support system for your recovery and take it easy from work and other responsibilities during this time period.
Aortic Valve Replacement in Palm Beach
Dr. Eli S. Levine at the Advanced Heart and Vascular Institute is highly experienced in cutting-edge and complex procedures of the heart, including aortic valve replacement. Dr. Levine is a triple board-certified interventional cardiologist and can perform this surgery using a minimally invasive approach, which allows patients to recover sooner from the procedure. Our team will provide you with clear, detailed instructions for a successful recovery. To consult with Dr. Levine, call our office today at (561) 235-5621 or use our convenient online appointment request form.