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Heart valve surgery - discharge

Aortic valve replacement - discharge; Aortic valvuloplasty - discharge; Aortic valve repair - discharge; Replacement - aortic valve - discharge; Repair - aortic valve - discharge; Ring annuloplasty - discharge; Percutaneous aortic valve replacement or repair - discharge; Balloon valvuloplasty - discharge; Mini-thoracotomy aortic valve - discharge; Mini-aortic replacement or repair - discharge; Cardiac valvular surgery - discharge; Mini-sternotomy - discharge; Robotically-assisted endoscopic aortic valve repair - discharge; Mitral valve replacement - open - discharge; Mitral valve repair - open - discharge; Mitral valve repair - right mini-thoracotomy - discharge; Mitral valve repair - partial upper sternotomy - discharge; Robotically-assisted endoscopic mitral valve repair - discharge; Percutaneous mitral valvuloplasty - discharge

Heart valve surgery is used to repair or replace diseased heart valves. Your surgery may have been done through a large incision (cut) in the middle of your chest, through a smaller cut between your ribs or through 2 to 4 small cuts.

When You're in the Hospital

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.

Most people spend 3 to 7 days in the hospital. You may have been in the intensive care unit some of the time, in the hospital, you may have begun learning exercises to help you recover more quickly.

What to Expect at Home

It will take 4 to 6 weeks or more to heal completely after surgery. During this time, it is normal to:


The following are general recommendations. You may get specific directions from your surgical team. Be sure to follow the advice your health care provider gives you.

Have a person who can help you stay in your home for at least the first 1 to 2 weeks.

Stay active during your recovery. 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 provider when you may return to work.

Do not travel for at least 2 to 4 weeks. Ask your provider when you can travel again.

Return to sexual activity gradually. Talk openly with your partner about it.

Wound Care

For the first 6 weeks after your surgery, you must be careful how you use your arms and upper body when you move.

Do not:

Do these things carefully:

Stop any activity if you feel pulling on your incision or breastbone. Stop right away if you hear or feel any popping, moving, or shifting of your breastbone and call your surgeon's office.

Use mild soap and water to clean the area around your incision.

You may take showers, but only for 10 minutes at a time. Make sure the water is lukewarm. Do not use any creams, oils, or perfumed body washes. Apply dressings (bandages) the way your provider showed you.

Do not swim, soak in a hot tub, or take baths until your incision is completely healed. Keep the incision dry.

Other Self-care

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 provider 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 provider first.

You may need to take an antibiotic before any medical procedure or when you go to the dentist. Tell all of your providers (dentist, doctors, nurses, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners) about your heart problem. You may want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.

You may need to take blood-thinning medicines to help keep your blood from forming clots. Your provider might recommend one of these medicines:

When to Call the Doctor

Contact your provider if:

If you are taking blood thinners, call your provider if you have:

Related Information

Mitral valve prolapse
Pulmonic valve stenosis
Heart valve surgery
Bicuspid aortic valve
Aortic valve surgery - minimally invasive
Aortic valve surgery - open
Mitral valve surgery - minimally invasive
Mitral valve surgery - open
Tips on how to quit smoking
Aspirin and heart disease
Antiplatelet drugs - P2Y12 inhibitors
Taking warfarin (Coumadin)
Taking warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven) - what to ask your doctor


Carabello BA. Valvular heart disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 66.

Otto CM, Nishimura RA, Bonow RO, et al. 2020 ACC/AHA guideline for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Joint Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2021;77:e25-e197. PMID 33342586

Rosengart TK, Aberle CM, Ryan C. Acquired heart disease: valvular. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 61.


Review Date: 1/1/2023  

Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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