Patients will need the support of friends, family or carers during the first few months following surgical valve repair or valve replacement. Patients of a working age who have had surgical procedure usually need to be off work for 12 weeks. Some very elderly patients may need slightly longer to recover.
You may need to ensure that the patient has additional help with routine tasks for a few weeks after treatment. Recovery times are likely to be much shorter following the less-invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation (TAVI) procedure, which is for patients who are high surgical risk.
Help the patient prepare for their trip to the GP or healthcare professional. They may be asked:
When they first noticed their symptoms of breathlessness, chest pains, dizziness, fainting or difficulty exercising. Have they come on suddenly or gradually? Have they worsened since first experienced?
About the impact of the symptoms on the patient’s lifestyle. They may have overlooked signs and symptoms, or believe they are due to the natural ageing process, especially if the valve disease is slowly progressive and only gradually limits their daily activities.
About past medical history of cardiovascular disease, rheumatic fever, connective tissue disorders and any other co-morbidities.
Use our Symptoms tracker to help prepare for the GP or healthcare professional. Keeping a track of what the patient is experiencing makes the progress easier and helps with diagnosis.
The healthcare professional will usually:
- Check the patient’s pulse rate and rhythm
- Take the blood pressure
- Auscultate (listen to) the heart for abnormal cardiac murmur using a stethoscope
The GP might refer the patient for further investigation.
How will I be involved?
Sometimes patients do not want to ask for help, but your loved-one assistance within the first six weeks after treatment. Your healthcare professional can guide you on the specific ways in which you can help your loved-one, so please ask them for advice.
Before the procedure, you can also help by ensuring the patient eats a healthy balanced diet as this also helps recovery and ensure that patients regularly check their weight.
Here are some of the things you need to know when caring for someone about to have heart valve disease treatment:
- They will be fragile and struggle with many basic movements. For the first few days (when the individual is usually still in the hospital’s care) even sitting up is great progress. Once they get home, routine tasks such as getting dressed and washed will be difficult to begin with.
- The patient won't be able to do much for themselves for the first week. Cooking, cleaning, dressing, washing, walking… all of these will be difficult for someone who has just had a heart treatment.
- Nutrition can really enhance recovery. While heart valve disease isn’t linked to diet or other lifestyle factors, good nutrition following heart valve disease treatment is important, as it benefits overall heart health.
- You should encourage routine. Patients may fall into a late-rising, lethargic routine. While rest is obviously key to recovery, it helps if the patient can wake up at a reasonable hour, have a wash get dressed.
- Patient are encouraged to weigh themselves daily. For the first three weeks or so a little weight loss is expected. If they gain more than 5 pounds, mention it to their doctor, as this can suggest fluid retention.
- They should be able to walk for 10 minutes after about two weeks, and gradually build from here. While they will tire easily for the first three weeks or so, it is important that they persevere.
- Positivity is vital. Due to the restricted nature of life immediately after treatment, recovering patients can have low moods, or get frustrated with their situation. Keep them mentally engaged, as this will help prevent post-treatment blues and help the time pass faster.