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Questions and Answers

Heart Valve Replacement – Surgical

How soon after surgery can I expect to see results?

Results vary from person to person. Many people experience relief from symptoms right away. For others, it may take longer to notice a change. Your doctor will help you evaluate the progress of your condition after surgery.

How soon after surgery can I resume normal activity?

Recovery time depends on many different things, including your overall physical condition. Typically, recovery takes at least 8 weeks and up to 12 weeks. Some patients recover faster, other patients take longer. During this time, you'll gradually regain your energy and will be able to return to your normal routine. 

Of course, how quickly you recover depends on the kind of surgery you had, your overall strength, and how well your incision is healing. A good cardiac rehabilitation program helps you regain your energy and overall good health.

If I have a mechanical heart valve implanted, will I need to take medications after my surgery?

You will have to take medications after your surgery. Which medications you will need will depend on your overall health and the particular nature of your valve disease.

With a mechanical valve, your doctor will prescribe blood thinning (anticoagulant) medication that you'll take for the rest of your life. This medication helps prevent the formation of blood clots, which are a serious health risk.

Because anticoagulation medication helps prevent clots by delaying the blood coagulation process, any cuts or scrapes you get will bleed a little longer than normal. It's important that you follow your doctor's specific instructions and take your medication exactly as instructed.

You may need to take antibiotics before you have dental work or other surgery. Even a simple procedure like cleaning your teeth can dislodge bacteria that could find their way to your heart valve and cause an infection. Be sure to tell your dentist or doctor that you have a prosthetic (artificial) heart valve.

If I have a tissue heart valve implanted, will I need to take any medications after my surgery?

Your condition will determine if you have to take blood thinning (anticoagulant) medication. With tissue valves, the need for blood thinning medication is usually minimal. Your doctor might put you on blood thinning medication during the time that you're healing. After that, he or she will look at your risk factors to see if you need to continue on the medication.

That fact that tissue valves require so little blood thinning medication makes them ideal for women in their childbearing years, elderly patients, and patients who can't tolerate anticoagulation medication.

You might need to take antibiotics before you have dental work or other surgery done, just as you would if you got a mechanical valve. Even a simple teeth cleaning can dislodge bacteria that could find their way to your heart valve and cause an infection. Be sure to tell your dentist or doctor that you have a tissue heart valve.

Are there any complications with heart valve replacement surgery?

Complications, sometimes leading to repeated surgery or even death, may be associated with heart valve replacement. Discuss your personal situation with your doctor and make sure you're clear about the risks, benefits, and possible complications.

What do I need to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle with my replacement heart valve?

  • Take all your medications exactly as prescribed.
  • Tell your doctor if you have dramatic, unexplained weight gain, fever, pain, or other symptoms.
  • Eat a low-salt diet if your doctor prescribes one for you.
  • Follow your doctor's suggestions about bringing exercise and other activity into your life.
  • Tell your doctor if you make any lifestyle changes.

Do heart valves make any noise?

All mechanical valves make a little noise. When a mechanical heart valve opens and closes, you may hear two distinct clicking sounds. This is normal. Many patients get peace of mind from this sound since it means that the heart valve is working normally.

How long do tissue heart valves last?

Tissue valves wear out slowly, much like natural valves. Your age and health play a large part in how long your valve will last. Usually, tissue valves like the Medtronic Freestyle® Bioprosthesis, Hancock® II Bioprosthesis, and Mosaic® Bioprosthesis last from 7 to 15 years.1-2 However, they can last more than 20 years.2-3 The amount of time depends on many complex patient factors that should be discussed with your doctor.

Is it safe to have an x-ray?

It's completely safe to have an x-ray with any Medtronic heart valve.

Is it safe to have an MRI scan?

Our heart valves have been tested and found to be safe with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Contact Medtronic LifeLine CardioVascular Technical Support for complete details.

Is it safe to go through airport security?

Airport security systems have no effects on prosthetic heart valves. Your valve should not set off any alarms, depending on the setting of the security system.
Learn More: Transportation Safety Administration Website.

References

  1. Mosaic® Bioprosthesis: Ten year Clinical Update. ©Medtronic, Inc. 2007.
  2. David TE, Ivanov J, Armstrong S, Feindel CM, Cohen G. Late results of heart valve replacement with the Hancock II bioprosthesis. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2001; 121:268-278.
  3. Butchart EG, Hui-Hua L, Payne N, Buchan K, Grunkmeier GL. Twenty years' experience with Medtronic Hall valve. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2001; 121:1090-100.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 20 Nov 2013

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