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Recovery

After an aortic valve replacement, you'll usually need to stay in hospital for about a week.

The time it takes to fully recover varies depending on factors like your age and overall health.

Your breastbone will usually heal in about 6 to 8 weeks, but it may be 2 to 3 months before you feel your normal self again.

Recovering in hospital

You'll usually stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) for the first day or 2 after your operation, before moving to a surgical ward.

Staying in an ICU

While you're in the ICU:

When you're taken off the ventilator, a mask will be placed over your mouth and nose to supply oxygen for you to breathe.

Moving to a ward

You'll be moved from the ICU to a surgical ward once the doctors treating you think you're ready.

You may have several tubes and monitors attached to you during the first few days of your stay.

These could include:

Your care team will focus on increasing your appetite and getting you back on your feet.

Someone from the cardiac rehabilitation team or physiotherapy department will give you advice about getting back to normal, and where there's a cardiac rehabilitation programme or support group in your area.

The aim is to help you recover quickly and get back to living as full and active a life as you can, while preventing further heart problems.

Going home

Depending on how well you progress, you should be able to leave the hospital about a week after your operation.

Before going home, you'll be given advice about caring for your wound and any activities you need to avoid until you have recovered.

Returning to your normal activities

You'll need to take things easy at first. Starting gentle exercise, such as walking, can be helpful when you feel up to it, but don't try to do too much too quickly.

Your doctor or surgeon can give you specific advice about when you can return to your normal activities, but generally speaking:

Possible side effects

While at home, you may experience some temporary side effects that should start to improve as you recover.

These can include:

Speak to your GP or cardiac nurse for advice if you're struggling to cope with the after effects of your operation or they don't seem to be improving.

When to get medical advice

Contact your GP if you experience:

These symptoms could be a sign of a problem such as an infection.

Read more about the risks of an aortic valve replacement.