Recovering from Heart Valve Surgery

After surgery, you will probably spend at least one night in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). You will be in the Medical Center for about five to seven days after your surgery.

How much recovery time you will need depends on several things, including how healthy you were before surgery, how many valves were involved in the surgery and the surgical technique used. You will need to rest and limit your activities at first. Your doctor may want you to begin an exercise program or join a cardiac rehabilitation program when you are strong enough

You may be able to go back to work in four to six weeks, if you work in an office. If your job is more demanding, you may need more time for recovery. Discuss this with your doctor.

If you have been given a mechanical valve, you may sometimes hear a quiet clicking in your chest. This is just the sound of the new valve opening and closing, and is nothing to be worried about.

Having valve repair or replacement surgery does mean that you need to take certain precautions. Always tell your doctor and dentist that you have had valve surgery. If you are having a surgical or dental procedure, you should take an antibiotic beforehand. This can help prevent bacteria entering the bloodstream during these procedures and infecting your repaired or artificial valve. Without the antibiotics, you are at risk for developing a serious condition called bacterial endocarditis.

A biological valve needs to be replaced in 10 to 15 years. Mechanical valves may also eventually fail. It is important that you alert your doctor if you have any symptoms.