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Heart Valve Replacement: How to Prepare - Topic Overview

Before you have surgery to replace a heart valve, you will need to prepare for your hospital stay.

Hospital preadmission

You will have to visit the hospital or your doctor's office several days in advance of your surgery for a hospital preadmission session. During this session, your medical team will educate you about your upcoming surgery. They will also teach you how to prepare for your operation, explain what the procedure will be like, and give you instructions for a successful recovery. Some institutions even show a patient education video about having valve replacement surgery.

You should use this time to ask questions. It is natural for you to be anxious before your operation. So be sure to talk about the issues that may be causing you anxiety.

Informed consent

One of the issues that your doctor or nurse will discuss with you during the preadmission session is informed consent. Your doctor or nurse will describe the risks associated with a valve replacement surgery. These include:

  • Stroke.
  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Heart attack.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Death.

You will then be asked to sign a consent form (waiver). Be sure to read it carefully. Ask questions about the form if there is anything that you don't understand.

Preparatory procedures

You will have a range of preparatory procedures. Your hospital staff will give you a few preliminary tests, such as an EKG and a blood test, to make sure that your bodily functions are normal. You will also be asked to bathe or shower with an antiseptic soap, while a technician will shave any hair from your chest and abdomen, so that your body can be as clean as possible during surgery.

Anesthesia

One of the most important discussions you have prior to surgery will be with your anesthesiologist, who will administer anesthesia during your operation. Because general anesthesia carries significant risks, you will need to describe your past medical history, including other operations you have had and any allergies to food or medicines. Mention any history, either personal or within your family, of adverse reactions to anesthesia. Bring a list of the medicines you are currently taking.

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