What to Expect After a Heart Valve Transplant
To treat a heart valve disease like aortic stenosis, you may have to undergo heart valve replacement surgery. During this procedure, your surgeon will replace the affected heart valve during an open-heart surgery or minimally invasive procedure. Having to undergo heart surgery is a big event in anyone’s life. You and your loved ones may have some questions about what life will be like after your surgery.
Here are the answers to some common questions about what to expect after a heart valve replacement surgery and tips for your recovery.
How Long Will I Be in the Hospital?
When you wake up from surgery, you will spend some time in the intensive care unit (ICU) as nurses closely monitor your vitals to make sure there are no complications. After doctors have made sure you are stable, you will be moved to a regular hospital room where family and friends can visit you. Your post-op hospital stay will vary depending on your condition and response to the surgery, but it can last anywhere from a few days to weeks on average. During your time in the hospital, you will be closely monitored and gradually begin to resume walking, eating and drinking.
How Long is Recovery?
Once you have been discharged from the hospital, recovery time is usually four to eight weeks. When you are recovering at home, it is important to follow the treatment plan given to you by your provider and ask family and friends for their support. You will then need to get regular check-ups with your cardiologist. Each day you will begin to gain more energy and begin to breathe with more ease. Be gentle with yourself and expect slow and steady progress.
When Can I Get Back to my Normal Routine?
Generally, after about six weeks, you should be able to resume your normal daily activities such as driving and going to work. You and your doctor will decide together when you can return to more strenuous activities, depending on your condition. After your heart valve surgery, you can expect to have more energy and an improved quality of life.
Are Diet and Exercise Important in my Recovery?
A heart-healthy diet and regular physical activity are very important aspects of recovery after a heart valve replacement. A balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats can speed up the recovery process and help to minimize your fatigue. After surgery, you should avoid processed meats and foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt content. During recovery, consult with your doctor before resuming any strenuous physical activity. You should gradually work your way towards an active lifestyle by incorporating a daily walk into your recovery plan. Once fully recovered, follow a regular exercise program of at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to sustain a heart-healthy lifestyle.