Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us

After Heart Valve Surgery: At Home

You had surgery to repair or replace 1 or more of your heart valves. These valves make sure that blood flows through your heart the right way. You had heart valve surgery to improve the flow of blood through your heart. It should also decrease or stop the symptoms you have been having.

Home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • Don't use very hot water while showering. It can affect your blood flow and make you dizzy.

  • Gently clean your incision every day with soap and water. Just let the water splash on it, apply the soap with your hand, gently rinse. Don't rub it with a washcloth or anything similar. Gently pat dry the area of the incision. Don’t use any powders, lotions, antibiotic creams, ointments, or oils on your incision until it is healed. Healing takes several weeks.

  • Weigh yourself every day, at the same time of day, and in the same kind of clothes. Call your healthcare provider if you gain to 2 pounds (0.9 kg) or more in 1 day, or 5 pounds (2.27 kg) in 1 week.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you feel depressed, have trouble sleeping, or have a low appetite that makes it hard to eat. These are common problems after surgery, but they can slow your recovery. It’s important to get help.


  • Discuss with your healthcare provider what you can and can’t do as you recover. You will have good and bad days. This is normal.

  • Let others drive for the first  6 weeks after your surgery.

  • Ask someone to stand nearby while you shower or do other activities, just in case you need help.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 5 pounds (2.27 kg) for 6 to 8 weeks. Your healthcare provider may give you a specific weight restriction. 

  • Until approved by your healthcare provider, don't mow the lawn, vacuum, or do other activities that could strain your breastbone. Don't do activities that involve lifting your arms higher than shoulder level.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can expect to return to work.

Lifestyle changes

  • Keep a healthy weight. Get help to lose any extra pounds (kilograms).

  • Cut back on salt. Limit canned, dried, packaged, and fast foods. Don’t add salt to your food at the table. Season foods with herbs instead of salt when you cook.

  • Don't smoke. Join a stop-smoking program to help you stop.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can start a walking program.

To start a walking program:

  • If you haven’t already started a walking program in the hospital, begin with short walks (about 5 minutes) at home. Go a little longer each day.

  • Choose a safe place with a level surface, such as a local park or mall.

  • Wear supportive shoes to prevent injury to knees and ankles.

  • Walk with someone. It’s more fun and helps you stay with it.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff. You will have an ultrasound of the heart (echocardiogram) more than once over time to make sure the new heart valve is working well.

You may need to take medicines to thin your blood after having your heart valve replaced. You may also need blood tests to check how these medicines are working. Make sure you understand the instructions for these.

You may need to take antibiotics before having any dental work or medical procedures. This is common for people who had heart valve surgery. Ask your healthcare provider for instructions before dental cleanings or medical procedures.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Chest pain or a return of the heart symptoms you had before surgery

  • Fever of  100.4° F ( 38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Redness, swelling, bad odor, fluid, or warmth at the incision site

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fainting

  • Weight gain of more than 2 pounds (0.9 kg) in 24 hours or more than 5 pounds (2.27 kg) in  1 week(s)

  • New or worse swelling in your hands, feet, or ankles

  • Pain that doesn't get better, or gets worse

  • A change in the location or type of pain

  • Fast, very slow, or irregular pulse

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Louise Cunningham RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Mandy Snyder APRN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2020
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
StayWell Disclaimer