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What to Expect After Aortic Valve Replacement

written by: DaniellaNicole • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 11/28/2010

Find out what to expect of aortic valve replacement post op. Learn how long in-hospital recovery may take and what limits are placed on the patient while recovering at home. Discover what an aortic valve replacement patient can expect life to be like following surgery.

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    About Aortic Valve Replacement

    When aortic valve regurgitation is present (the valve is leaking), aortic valve repair may be recommended. This can involve resuspending, reinforcing or placating the leaflets. It can also involve replacing the aortic valve.

    A prosthetic valve may be implanted that is either biological or mechanical in nature. A mechanical valve can be made of plastic, metal or carbon. Biological valves can be made of animal tissue (xenograft) or human tissue (homograft or allograft). If the patient’s own tissue is used it is called an autograft. The type of graft used will depend upon what may be best for the patient’s particular situation.

    Once completed, what can a patient expect of aortic valve replacement post op?

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    Immediately After Surgery

    Once the surgery is complete, the patient will be taken to a recovery room and will be monitored. A bandage will be on the surgical site and the site may be painful. Pain medication may be given, possibly with an anticoagulant.

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    Hospital Stay

    The hospital stay following aortic valve replacement can be on average five to seven days in length. This can include one to three days in intensive care. During the hospital stay, the patient will be monitored for any possible complications or reactions to the anesthesia.

    The patient will be given instructions regarding follow-up appointments, medication, surgical site care and activity levels while recovering at home prior to be released from the hospital.

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    Recovery at Home

    Monitoring of the surgical site will be similar for the patient at home as it was at the hospital. The surgical site must be watched for drainage, redness and swelling. Additionally, if the patient develops a fever, chest pain (increase), or shortness of breath, the physician should be contacted.

    The surgical site will likely leave a scar that will run along the chest bone.

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    Life After Surgery

    The specifics will vary from patient to patient, but in general, a patient will be encouraged to do some mild activity such as walking while recovering at home. This activity level is expected to increase in duration and intensity as the patient improves, until the patient is back to an active lifestyle.

    Patients who have a job that is sedentary can usually return to work in about three to six weeks. For patients with more demanding jobs, the wait to return to work will be longer and will depend upon factors such as how well the patient is recovering and what specifically will be required of the patient at work.

    In either case, the patient may not be allowed to drive a car for about six weeks following surgery.

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    Summary

    Aortic valve replacement post op requires that the patient closely follow the instructions of the physician regarding recovery and the schedule for returning to normal activities. The patient also needs to be mindful of the possibility of needed replacement surgery again in the future.

    If a biological valve was used, the patient will need replacement surgery again in approximately 10 to 15 years. Mechanical valves fail over time and will need to be replaced when signs of valve failure appear. The physician can instruct the patient as to what specifically to watch for over time.

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    References

    Aortic Valve Repair/Replacement. Baylor College of Medicine: The Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery. http://www.debakeydepartmentofsurgery.org/home/content.cfm?proc_name=aortic+valve+replacement&content_id=274

    Valve Repair or Replacement. Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/Proced/vsurg.cfm


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