You had surgery to repair or replace one of your heart valves. Your surgery may have been done through a large incision (cut) in the middle of your chest, through a smaller cut between 2 of your ribs, or through 2 to 4 small cuts.
After your operation, you will probably spend 3 to 7 days in the hospital. You may begin learning exercises to help you recover more quickly.
It will take 4 to 6 weeks to completely heal and start feeling better after surgery. During this time, it is normal to:
Someone who can help you should stay with you in your home for at least the first 1 to 2 weeks.
Stay active during your recovery, but be sure to start slowly and increase your activity little by little.
Do not drive for at least 4 to 6 weeks after your surgery. The twisting movements needed to turn the steering wheel may pull on your incision.
Expect to take 6 to 8 weeks off work. Ask your doctor when you may return to work.
Do not travel for at least 2 to 4 weeks. Ask your doctor when you can travel again.
Return to sexual activity gradually. Talk openly with your partner about it.
For the first 6 weeks after your surgery, you must be careful how you use your arms and upper body when you move.
Do these things carefully:
Stop any activity if you feel pulling on your breastbone.
Use mild soap and water to clean your incision area. Wash your hands with soap and water first, then gently rub up and down on the skin with your hands or a very soft cloth. Use a washcloth only when the scabs are gone and the skin has healed.
You may take showers, but limit them to 10 minutes. Make sure the water is warm, not too hot or cold. Do not use any creams, oils, or perfumed body washes. Apply dressings (bandages) the way your doctor or nurse showed you.
Do NOT swim, soak in a hot tub, or take baths until your incision is completely healed. Keep the incision dry.
Learn how to check your pulse, and check it every day. Do the breathing exercises you learned in the hospital for 4 to 6 weeks.
Follow a heart-healthy diet.
If you feel depressed, talk with your family and friends. Ask your doctor about getting help from a counselor.
Continue to take all your medicines for your heart, diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other conditions you have. Do not stop taking any medicine without talking with your doctor or nurse first.
You may need to take an antibiotic before any medical procedure or when you go to the dentist. Tell all of your health care providers (dentist, doctors, nurses, or nurse practitioners) about your heart problem. You may want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
Your doctor may ask you to take blood-thinning medicines to help keep your blood from forming clots. Your doctor might recommend one of these medicines:
Call your doctor or nurse if:
If you are taking blood thinners, call your doctor if you have:
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