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After Heart Valve Surgery

For the first 6 to 8 weeks after surgery, you’ll gain a little more energy and strength each day. Your healthcare provider will discuss what you can and can’t do as you recover. You’ll have good days and bad days. Remember to take things slowly and rest when you get tired.

Walking

  • Walking pumps blood to your heart. This improves blood flow throughout your whole body.

  • Start with a short walk (maybe 5 minutes) and walk for a little longer each day.

  • Choose a safe place with a level surface. This might be a local park or mall.

  • Wear shoes with good support. This will help prevent injury to knees and ankles. 

  • Walk with someone. It’s more fun and helps you stay with it.

    Man and woman walking briskly in comfortable clothes.

Showering

  • Don't use very hot water, especially on the incisions. It can affect your circulation and make you dizzy.

  • Ask someone to stand nearby in case you need help.

Driving

  • Let others drive for the first 4 to 6 weeks after your surgery or as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • Motion can make pain worse and injure your breastbone.

  • Some of your medicines may make you drowsy.

Easing into activity 

  • After a few weeks, you can start doing light work around your home, such as preparing simple meals and washing dishes.

  • Most healthcare providers advise against lifting anything that weighs more than 5 pounds. Your provider may give you a different weight limit. Don't do activities that involve raising your arms above the height of your shoulders. For example, don't reach up to get items from higher shelves.

  • Don't do mowing or vacuuming. These can strain your breastbone.

  • Your healthcare provider can advise you about the best plan for returning to work. It will depend on the type of work you do, such as a desk job, or a more active job.

  • Unless your provider tells you otherwise, you can resume having sex as soon as you feel comfortable.

Medicines your healthcare provider may prescribe

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe a blood-thinner (anticoagulant) medicine. This medicine prevents bleeding or blood clots that could lead to a stroke.

  • Your provider may prescribe an antibiotic. This helps prevent infection that could scar and destroy your heart valve. You will be told when to take this medicine. That might be before dental work, surgery, or medical procedures.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Chest pain or belly (abdominal) pain

  • Dizziness, faintness, or shortness of breath

  • Cough up red blood or have red blood in your stool

  • Chills or fever

  • Irregular or fast heart rate

  • Sudden numbness in arms, legs, or face

  • Sudden severe headache

Online Medical Reviewer: John Hanrahan MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2016
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