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Aortic Valve Replacement
I guess it was six years ago when my primary physician referred me to a cardiologist. I often had chest pains but X-Rays and EKGs never showed any problem. I had an ECHO and based on the results, there was a "widening" of my Aorta but I guess nothing really concerning at that time. Through the years, I had another ECHO in 2018 with basically mild to moderate results. My primary physician referred me for another ECHO in early January 2020. Well, the results were not what I wanted to see. My primary physician shared that he had seen results as such possibly over a 10 year span but not such changes over 2 years. He referred me back to the Cardiologist. The Cardiologist and the Fellow both agreed that they though the results were a little over exaggerated but did state that Aortic Valve Replacement was in my future and they would keep a watch with repeat visit in 6 months and follow up ECHO in a year. The only symptom I really have is some discomfort in my chest periodically. Otherwise, I am in great health (58 yo). In other words, I don't have any of the other symptoms. I have lost 70 pounds purposefully over the past 1.5 years. I am not shocked at the murmur/aortic issue as my parents both have heart issues...my dad had a quadruple bypass and my mom has AFIB. For those who have gone through open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement, what was your experience like...the during and now the after effects? I want to be prepared when this procedure has to be done. Thankfully, I am only about 5 minutes from Duke where the procedure will be done. Thanks in advance for any insights.
Larkspur, February 8, 2020 11:38am EST
I had my mitral valve repaired a few months ago. It also went from mild regurgitation to severe in a few years. My "fix" was done transcatheter (no open heart surgery, no heart lung machine) through the femoral vein in the groin. They can do complete mitral and aortic valve replacements this way too. Mick Jagger had his aortic valve replaced this way last year. When the time comes, you might want to inquire about it as the recovery is minimal--usually one night in the hospital. Not every hospital has someone trained to do this, and you do want someone with experience, but it is becoming more and more common. It is usually interventional cardiologists who do this procedure rather than cardio-thoracic surgeons. Good luck!
drh1961, February 8, 2020 12:12pm EST
Thanks for this insight. At the present time, my cardiologist told me that the procedure you spoke about would not be an option for me. However, he said that things were changing and by the time I needed surgery, there may be other options. Thankfully, Duke is a teaching hospital.
Larkspur, February 8, 2020 12:21pm EST
Yes, things are changing very fast in this area of cardiology. Valve procedures qualify you for cardiac rehab and I finished it yesterday. Really qualified staff and an excellent program. I met a number of patients there who had had open heart valve replacements. The interventional cardiologist who did my procedure was trained to do it at Duke, so they will be up on the latest techniques.
drh1961, February 10, 2020 12:28pm EST
Thanks for sharing this information.
AmbassadorMR, February 10, 2020 4:05pm EST
Hi drh and welcome to the support site.
I had my aortic valve replaced in 2012 at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. It sounds like you are staying in close contact with your cardiologist to asess your valve disease progression. Unfortunately for all of us with valve issues, the question is not if a procedure will be necessary but when. There is a wealth of information on valve disease diagnosis and treatment options that you can explore as you monitor your condition. I encourage you to educate yourself as much as you can so that you can watch for symptom changes and know the best questions to ask of the cardiologists and surgeons that will at some point be guiding your treatment. Here is a link to the valve disease section of the AHA site that can get you started (if you haven't already) in your journey to gain information.
As for the before and after experience, I think I can speak for all of us AHA Heart Valve Ambassadors when I say get educated, stay vigilant and get treated at the best facility and cardiology/surgical team that you can access. My life 7 years post op is fantastic and I am forever grateful that valve disease can be successfully treated and with excellent outcomes. All the best to you in your journey and let us know if we can be of help along the way.
Yours With Heart
BasinBoy25, February 10, 2020 9:09pm EST
I just wanted to reach out and share some good news with you--you can (and will) make it through having this surgery. Last April I was told that my aortic valve was bi-cuspid and needed to be watched. Then six months later I was told my aorta was getting stretched. And five weeks ago I had them both replaced. Crazy 9 or 10 months. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not unheard of for an aorta to grow as much as yours did in a year or two. Mine was about 4.1 to 4.9 depending upon where they measured it. My bad bi-cuspid valve was regurgitating pretty severely too. The thing that has been so strange about all the diagnosis and surgery is that I never felt bad. Never had any symptoms--no swelling, no shortness of breath, no fatigure, no bad blood pressure, no faiting. In fact, I was at the gym for an hour cardiac work out the day before surgery.
My cardiologists watched and performed all kinds of tests prior to sending me off to the cardio surgeon. I had some test numbers that weren't very good and they wanted me to have the rep;acement done before any permanant damage was done to my heart or vascualr system. Apparently, the heart will comensate for the structure problems with a valve for a while, but it does place undesired stress on the ventricle (in my case). After a while, the extra strain can turn into a bad thing and start to cause structural changes to the heart (not a good thing).
I didn't have anything to compare the surgery and recovery to. I just hit 50 and this was my first hospital stay Everyone kept saying that being in good health before surgery really helps the recovery process. Believe it or not, but they have you up and out of bed the night of sugery and will be givng you food to eat. (I remember how yummy the Sprite and ice chips tasted. The first night was in ICU and the drugs keep you kinda-out of it (at least it did me). But bright and early the next morning at 8:00 that had me out of bed and walking from the ICU floor to the cardiac care floor. (Still can't belive that did that.) Anyway, i just tell you this that you aren't stuck in a bed for a week. (You are up showing and walking and making frequent potty breaks (thanks to the water pills)). The recover is by no means a cake walk, but it is doable. There is pleanty of care from the hospital staff and they help with pretty much anything you might need.
If there are any specific questions or concerns you have, please reach out. (I'll give an e-mail account if you want.) I have been down this path and am successfully coming out the other side. I am in cardio rehab now and getting ready to drive again--YES!
Sorry for the rambling, but you can do this. Any help I can give, let me know!
Sputnik34, February 14, 2020 10:53am EST
I too recently had open heart surgery (on October 28th 2019) so its been about 3.5 months now since surgery. I had my unicuspid aortic valve replaced, my acending aorta replaced, and my aortic root enlarged. I am 38 years old. Surgery was MUCH less frightning than I though it would be. The day of surgery I drove myself to the hospital (accompanied by family and a friend). I met with the surgeon and the anestesiaologist. They had me change into a gown and then within about 30 minutes of being at the hospital, they had me walk into the Operating room. I hopped onto the operating table and the anestesiologist said he was going to start an IV. I looked up towards the cool looking LED lights in the operating room so i didnt feel the pinch, and the next think i knew, 8 hours had passed and I was in the ICU in recovery.
I spent a total of 11 days in the hospital (I developed pericarditis) which is an inflimation of the pericardium (the sack around the heart). Apparently this is a common thing that can develope after open heart surgery. It made it a little harder to catch my breath and speak but nothing horrible. I was on colchocine (an anti inflamitory antibiotic) for about 30 days.
After 11 days I was released to go home where i continued taking the medicing the gave me. I was perscribed Colchocine for the pericarditis, a baby asprin, and metoporpl (a beta blocker to slow my heart rate. since my heart was used to pumping harder to get blood through a small opening, it takes time to realize that the opening is now larger and it doesnt need to pump as hard. I am still on baby asprin and the metoporol dose has been lowered.
Recovery was slow and maybe slower for me because of the pericarditis. By week 5 I noticed a significant improvement and significantly less pain and easier and better breathing. By week 8 I was driving and felt more like myself.
For reference, I just got back from Turks and Caicos yesterday....3.5 months after open heart surgery. I was swimming in the ocean, Went Jet Skiing, was towed in a tube by a boat out in open water, went snorkling, and had zero restrictions other than to put zinc ointment on my scar to prevent any issues.
I feel about 80-90% back to my normal self.
I was terrified before surgery....but for no reason. Do not be worried...it will work out just fine. For reference, I went with the edwards inspiris resilia Aortic valve. It is a tissue valve. i know it will need to be replaced at some point but hopefully it will get me a good 10 years + before I need to deal with it again. I did not want to be on blood thinners.
Hope this helps and hope your experience is even easier than mine!
PK203, February 17, 2020 11:44am EST
Thank you for the great insight. Like many others, I don't have symptoms, but I will need aortic valve replacement later this year. Going in for cardiac catheterization in 2 weeks at Kaiser LA. I keep worrying about what happens after I am released home after surgery. How was your home recovery? Where you able to function independently once you got home or needed assistance? Able to use the bathroom on your own? I live alone, so understanding others experiences will really help me prepare. Thanks again.
BasinBoy25, February 17, 2020 11:46pm EST
Good luck with the catherizaton in two weeks--had one a month before my surgery. They just want to make sure they fix everything they can while they are in there working with the plumbing. I think I mentioned before, I am a solo dweller too. You are able to eat and use the facilities all on your own the day after surgery. I was suprised by this. For some reason, I thought I wouldn't be able to use my arms much for the first month or so--but not true. They started pumping me full of Lasix the the night of surgery and for a few days following. Needlss to say, I was up and out of bed quite frequently using the restroom all by myself. The hospital had physical therapists, dieticians, cardio therapists, respirapatory therapists, occupational therapists, and the list goes on. They will come in and start working and evaluating you the night of surgery. They will teach/show you how to get in and out of bed, stand-up, sit down, roll over, walk, sneeze, and so on. There was also a home health care coordinator. He/she will evaluate your needs and make sure you are well taken care of and your needs are planned for. I explored the possability or spending a week in a transittional rehap center after hospital discharge. I was worried about being home after the surgery, but after a week (that is how long I was in the hospital after surgery) I was ready to come home and start the recoup process (no need for a transitional care center). Try to prep your home for your return before you surgery (i.e. get some means made up and tucked away in the freezer, have your favorites chinese delivery on speed dial, get plenty of pillows to plop around to get comfortable on, get things off high shelves you might need, maybe a shower chair and adjustable shower head, sweats and loose clothing a plenty, a comfy recliner available, etc.) Rember there is no shame in asking for help and having sleep overs from family and friends. Once I got home, it was a slow but steady recovery. Daily home health care nurses and therapists started the day after discharge. They made sure that my body was healing and my home was literally in order. They checked the bathroom, kitchen, bed, and everything else to make sure it was set up for someone after open heart surgery. Everybody is different, but just don't over do when you get home. The surgeon or his/her staff will give you great insturctions on when to do what, when, and how often at home. You should be up and around your home with no problems, stairs-no problem, light cooking-no problem, shower and bathroom-no problem, getting dressed-no problem, binge-watching or web surfing-no problem. I am not saying the recovery is a vacton or breeze by any means. It is an ordeal. However, survival and thriving is doable! The first month your appetite may be off and rest, rest, rest will be your motto. Before you know it, you too will be looking at this in your rearview mirror. If you have any more questions or concners, I am here to help. Send a reply or send over an e-mail. Best wishes!
PK203, February 19, 2020 4:52pm EST
Thank you so so much, BasinBoy. This is very valuable information. Never in my wildest dreams that I would have though reaching up would be a problem. I'm going to make a list of what preparations I need before going in for surgery.