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What to expect after treatment

The normal recovery time after a heart valve surgery is usually four to eight weeks, and may be shorter after minimally invasive surgeries. To help you through the first weeks after treatment, why not look at our resources. These have been designed for patients, but will be useful for anyone supporting a patient after treatment.

Below is some brief information about what to expect and prepare for before you go in for treatment.

Immediately after treatment

Immediately after surgery, people are usually practicing very basic self-care and are soon encouraged to get up, to breathe deeply, and to resume eating, drinking and walking.

Days and weeks following your treatment

During this phase, people can expect to gradually regain energy and return to their normal activity level. After about 3 weeks they should be able to walk for about 10 minutes a few times a day, and by week 6 they should comfortably be able to walk for 30 minutes.

Follow-up care

They will most likely be checked within four to six weeks following surgery for a postoperative visit. After that, it is critical to get regular check-ups by a heart specialist or your GP. Clarify with your healthcare provide what symptoms would warrant a phone call or an additional recheck. Whenever they have questions or concerns or if they experience any unusual symptoms or changes in their overall health, it never hurts to call and ask.

How can diet and exercise help in my recovery?
Two important parts of recovery and continuing health are a good diet and a regular exercise routine.

  1. If your doctor has recommended a particular diet, it's important that you follow it. If a special diet has not been recommended, balanced, heart-healthy nutrition can speed healing and lessen fatigue. Weight control is also important for your heart health; excess weight increases the work of the heart and slows recovery.
  2. During recovery and beyond, make sure to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, breads, lean meats including fish and low-fat dairy products. Foods that are high in saturated fats, sugar, salt, and sodium should be limited. Processed meats should be avoided. In general, a low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fibre diet is best. After a valve replacement, do not use supplemental calcium without approval from your healthcare provider.

Patient Recovery Pathway

You can help by practicing habits for emotional health, setting positive goals, maintaining realistic expectations and celebrating progress.

Healthy Habits: Move Into A Routine

Exercise. One of the most reliable ways to keep a patients' mood stable is to get moving. Exercise whenever your healthcare provider says they can, even by starting to move by just shuffling down the hospital corridor. After surgery remember not to overdo it, but encourage the patient to keep moving at a slow and steady rate will help them ti recover the right way. Many people find that keeping some sort of routine is very helpful for staying positive during recovery, too. Routines can include whatever keeps their spirits up, provided you have your healthcare providers’ okay it.

Weigh yourself every day

Expect a little weight loss for about three weeks. If your loved one gains more than five pounds, tell your doctor. You may be retaining fluid, which can be dangerous.

Positive Goals: Plan your Recovery

Often, before treatment, their mind will be anxious and pre-occupied with thoughts of the actual procedure. It is essential that you look beyond this, and plan for their recovery pathway. Speak with your family, and explain what activities they might need help with. You might like to arrange for a friend or family member who lives a distance away to come and see them 6 or 7 weeks after their surgery. This will be an incentive, and something to look forward to post-treatment.

Manage your Expectations and Celebrate your Small Milestones

Learn the facts before they have their surgical procedure so that they’ll know what to expect. The more you celebrate their small victories each day and notice the moments of gratitude, the more positive they will likely feel about their progress.