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What to expect with Valve Replacement Surgery?
I am 56 years old. I was born with BAV Syndrome (first diagnosed in 2013). Because my aortic valve leakage (regurgitation) is now between 40 and 50 percent, it was recommended that I have surgery at this point. My surgery is scheduled for January 6th.
I am in generally good physical health. I walk at least 4 miles a day. My weight is in the normal range. I have never smoked. I am physically and mentally quite active. I have had extensive exams done on my heart, and no significant blockage or calcification has been found. My surgeon says test results show the only major problem is the missing flap on my aortic valve. He said dialation is minimal, and probably would not require any correction, although he did say he may do some minor corrections during the surgery depending how things look then. I am not experiencing any obvious physical symptoms at this point. I regularly climb several flights of stairs without getting winded, and I walk normally at a fast rate (nearly 4mph).
I am curious to hear from those who have had valve replacement surgery before so I can know what to expect. Some specific questions I have:
1. What is anasthesia like? Do you remember any of the procedure? What is the last thing your remember before "going under", and the first thing you remember from after the surgery?
2. Did you experience a significant amount of pain during recovery?
3. Can you describe your recovery experience, how things evolved, particularly over the first few days?
4. When were you able to leave the cardiac ICU? When were you able to leave the hospital? Were you able to care for yourself once you got home, or did you need help?
AHAModerator, January 3, 2021 5:10pm EST
Welcome the Support Network, Frank. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
I imagine it must be a stressful few days before your surgery. I'm not a medical professional, so I'm not able to answer your specific questions. Have you posed these questions to your healthcare team? They would be the best people to provide you with answers as each procedure and patient are unique. The AHA does have some resources that may be valuable as you get ready for your procedure and recovery:
We'll be thinking of you this week and wish you a speedy recovery. Please let us know how it goes.
AHA Support Team
frank64, January 3, 2021 8:13pm EST
Thanks for the response. Yes, my surgeon did give me an idea what to expect in terms of such things as how long I would be in the ICU (a day or two), in the hospital (a week or so), and recovery schedule (a month or so before I can drive and return to full-time mental work, two months before I can do heavy physical work). I will check out your link as well. But I was curious to hear personal experience accounts.
There is, of course, Arnold Schwartznegger, who had BAV surgery in the late 1990s. I have a friend whose father had valve replacement surgery (not sure if it was due to BAV Syndrome or something else). He said he rememberd his father recovered quickly, and was healthy for more than two decades after that. But it was a quarter century ago, and he does not remember details of the recovery. An acquaintance has had multiple back surgeries that required full anasthesia, and he said they told him to count backwards from 100, but he only got to about 98 each time, then the next thing he knew he was awake again and it was hours later and he had no memory of the time.
frank64, January 13, 2021 4:29pm EST
My BAV replacement surgery was successful, and I have been released from the hospital to continue recovery at home.
I have no memories of the surgery experience - the last thing I remember is the prep, and the first thing I remember is from that evening, nearly 12 hours later.
I have pretty extensive home recovery exercises, which include walking inside twice a day, starting at 5 minutes and increasing by a minute a day. Also there is a device I breathe through several times a day that measures lung volume, to practice gradually increasing my lung volume. Thus far, my lung volume is about 60% what it was before surgery. Two days after the surgery, it was at its low of about 40%.
I feel tired (maybe because they have me on beta blockers), and not being able to breathe as deeply means I have to take physical activities such as dressing and moving much more slowly. I can think clearly with no problems. I was told my appetitie would likely be low for a while, but aside from one day when I was having ***** issues due to constipation three days after the surgery and they kept giving me laxatives which made me nauseous, my appetite has remained good.
Since my apartment is on the 3rd floor with only stairs, I have help from friends bringing me things such as groceries, mail, etc. However, I was able to get up the stairs initially, with plenty of resting along the way.
Sleeping on my back was difficult for me because I am not used to it. Now that I am allowed to sleep on my side again, I am sleeping better. If I have to cough for any reason, that is very painful, and there is tenderness around the chest incisions and my chest feels heavy, but other than that there has not been a great amount of pain. I was on pain medicines for just a few days but have not taken any since then.
Caroline65, January 20, 2021 11:46pm EST
frank64. I read your comments and you have done marvelous in such a short time. I remember when I got home from my surgery. I had to climb 7 stories of stairs cause the elevator was broken down that night. It took me about 30 to 45 mintues, cause you can't pull yourself up for a few weeks after surgery. I made it but was so tired. And I remember when I woke up in recovery, I was ******* on the bed railing to let them know i was awake. But during the recovery, takes the chest a year to heal. Take it easy and the months will pass quickly., After the year was up, I developed Diabetes, genetically speaking. The surgery woke up the dormant gene. My father had it and a cousin foudn out after her bypass. So you may want to check that out. Insist on testing to make sure every year. I had the thirst vary bad, I drank water, pop, water and pop. And then got check and understood. But it was a change, not the end of the world. You will be fine as long as you listen to your body as it changes. Some things are not obvious till a year has come. Hang in there and let yourself heal. Slowly of course. Hugs for today.