After Heart Valve Surgery
When you leave the hospital, your physician will give you a routine to follow at home for your complete recovery. Your physical activities will be restricted at first, and then gradually you will return to normal activities. In many cases, you may find you are able to do more after your surgery than you were able to do before the surgery. Follow your physician’s advice regarding your postoperative activities. Be sure to ask questions about subjects that are important to you, for example, resumption of work, diet and recreation. Do not be shy or embarrassed about asking for answers to your concerns regarding your future activities.
Depending upon your situation, you may be placed on therapy with one or more drugs. Be sure that their use is fully explained to you by your physician. Learn why you need the drugs, how to take them and what side effects you may encounter. Particularly, with a mechanical heart valve you will be placed on anticoagulant (blood thinner) therapy. Anticoagulants are very useful and effective drugs; however, they also can have serious side effects, which have been discussed. It is important that you are fully aware of the proper use of this class of drugs.
You should also be aware that other medicines and diet can interfere with the action of your anticoagulant. Do not take any other medications without first clearing them with your physician. Make certain that your physician and other physicians who you see consider the effect of new medications on your anticoagulant before they prescribe them.
Follow-up visits to your physicians will be scheduled during the first year after surgery. Take advantage of these visits to ask questions and become more familiar with your valve. Talk with a hospital dietician to find out which foods can affect the anticoagulant medicine activity.
You and Your Physicians
You can improve the outcome of your heart valve surgery. Being diligent and careful with your medications and communicating with your physicians are extremely important. Because of the impact that you and your physicians have on your health, it is highly recommended that you develop a continuing, open, honest and trusting relationship with your physicians. A journal to keep track of ongoing questions and answers with your physicians is highly recommended.
If you experience any unusual sensations or any of the problems described earlier or any of the symptoms you had prior to surgery, contact your physician immediately. Continuity of medical care is important. It is essential that you carry an emergency identification card at all times, and that you consider membership in an emergency identification plan such as Medic-Alert. An identification card is provided with your valve and should be given to you by the hospital staff. Please fill out and carry this card with you at all times. If you do not receive the card and an On-X valve was implanted, please contact On-X Life Technologies, Inc.TM, Patient Records Department, at (888) 339-8000, and one will be sent to you.