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Heart Valve Surgery: Recovery

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Topic Overview

Recovery after valve surgery may take a long time. During this time, your activities will be limited, you will experience physical and emotional changes, and you may have problems (such as chest pain or trouble sleeping). You will also need medicines, good nutrition, and exercise.

Recovery

After you return home from the hospital, you will spend weeks to months recovering from your surgery. Full recovery time varies for each person and is influenced by your age and overall physical condition. It also depends on your motivation to work with the doctor.

While you are recovering, you will have to limit many of your normal activities. Most people take a few weeks off from work. But this will depend on your physical condition and the type of work you do. Talk to your doctor to find out when it is safe for you to return to work.

You may be advised not to drive for a few weeks. Your body needs time to regain its normal coordination and agility and to allow your incision to heal.

To ensure proper healing, do not apply direct pressure to your surgical wound. For at least 6 weeks, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, or cat litter or dog food bags.

Recovery can be intensely painful and difficult at times, from both the operation and medicines you are given. You may have some discomfort such as pain, swelling, or fatigue.

If you have symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor. Treating depression can help you stay healthy. Some people experience depression as a natural result of recovery from invasive surgery, which is a traumatic and weakening physical experience. Other people become depressed because they may feel isolated or inactive during recovery.

Although it may be hard, remember that these sensations and feelings are all normal reactions and are part of your physical and emotional healing process. They should disappear over time. If any of them concern you or especially cause you discomfort, discuss them with your doctor.

What you need to watch for

Some physical symptoms may indicate complications such as an infection. The table below lists symptoms to be aware of and what they may mean. Call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

Possible symptoms after valve surgery

Symptom

Could mean

A fever, especially during the first few days after you return home

Excessive draining, redness, or swelling of the incision

Infection

Sudden weight gain in the first two days

Swelling in ankles and hands

Fluid retention, which could indicate a problem with your circulation
Increasingly severe shortness of breath or coughingProblems with your heart or valve function or fluid retention
Excessive fatigue, weakness, dizziness, or faintingProblems with blood circulation and oxygen supply to your body parts or arrhythmia
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 29, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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