How did your heart surgery compare to other major operations?

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NattyD

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Hi - I’m new to this forum and really appreciate all of the information available . I’m looking at bicuspid aortic valve replacement in the near future and I’m trying to gauge recovery time . I am not a TAVR candidate and don’t know if I’m going with mechanical or biological valve . I’m 53 years old in reasonably good health. I had a total right knee replacement two years ago and had support post surgery for about three days . I had someone drive me to PT for the first two weeks . But by and large I did recovery on my own . I’m a single parent with two teenagers at home , two on their own , and my 84 year old mom. No other family in the area . For my knee surgery, I was home in two days and had no visitors in the hospital . Has anyone else had knee surgery and how did the open heart surgery compare? I want to be prepared if my boys will need to help and schedule around their school/college requirements. I understand the surgery but really have very little sense of what it required once released . I helped my dad after his surgery (bicuspid, aortic stenosis like me) but that was almost twenty years ago ...
 

tom in MO

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Hi - I’m new to this forum and really appreciate all of the information available . I’m looking at bicuspid aortic valve replacement in the near future and I’m trying to gauge recovery time . I am not a TAVR candidate and don’t know if I’m going with mechanical or biological valve . I’m 53 years old in reasonably good health. I had a total right knee replacement two years ago and had support post surgery for about three days . I had someone drive me to PT for the first two weeks . But by and large I did recovery on my own . I’m a single parent with two teenagers at home , two on their own , and my 84 year old mom. No other family in the area . For my knee surgery, I was home in two days and had no visitors in the hospital . Has anyone else had knee surgery and how did the open heart surgery compare? I want to be prepared if my boys will need to help and schedule around their school/college requirements. I understand the surgery but really have very little sense of what it required once released . I helped my dad after his surgery (bicuspid, aortic stenosis like me) but that was almost twenty years ago ...

Not much different from your Dad's surgery. I was in the hospital for a week. At home I could drive once I stopped taking pain pills. Cannot lift anything heavy for awhile. Didn't really want to do anything for about 3-weeks past operation. I did cook, but not the cleanup. I took a good nap every afternoon. Went to bed early and slept late. With two teenagers and your mom, let them handle things on their own for awhile. You'd be surprised how much they will accomplish :)
 

Keithl

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My friend had knee surgery in the last year and mechanical valve 20 years ago. He hated the knee recovery to the point he will not get the other knee done. I had my valve and graft 2 years and posted a few comments about it. I am married and having someone to help with washing was the biggest thing the first few weeks. I was working remote from hospital then when I got home. As long as you are not lifting or doing long reaches with your arms it is not an issue. Because my wife had to go to work I would uber home from the INR visits first few weeks. You kids and mom are going to need to understand you are not going to be doing much for a few weeks. If you follow the recovery recommendations right in 6 weeks you are 90% and will be in decent shape in 3ish weeks.
 

vitdoc

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The first week or so after a heart surgery kind of sucks. Then things start to normalize by two weeks. With knees you are hobbling around and have a long rehab. After a redo valve and new aorta I performed surgery myself 2 1/2 weeks after my own surgery. The patient did fine. Emergency retinal detachment. With a knee I probably couldn’t have done that. But as they say everyone is different.
 

dwhist

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I had a leaky aortic valve replaced 10 years ago and my left knee replaced last year. Recovery was much easier for the valve surgery. I was out of hospital in 4 days after heart surgery and had no issues at home. Even went with wife to grocery store and walked around on way home from hospital. My wife was planning to take the week off when I got home, but went back to work when we found I was able to take care of myself.

The knee surgery recovery was much worse. Spent first 2 months not sleeping well and most of that time in a recliner. Wife was working from home due to covid which was a big benefit.
 

newarrior

I have mild moderate Aortic Stenosis live Bangkok
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Redundant but would what everyone do if no partner/kids/family/friends anyone post op from heart surgery ?
 

almost_hectic

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Not gonna lie, my surgery kicked my ass in a way I never expected. At 44 my surgeon considered me young because I was healthy, active and strong. He said those are the patients he sees have a a bit more difficulty recovering. He said when you're stronger the incision and separation of bone will affect more active muscle and nerves than say, someone who is old and not active or has little muscle tissue. Physically it took me several weeks before pain subsided. Mentally it took me several months to feel normal.
 

Chuck C

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Hi - I’m new to this forum and really appreciate all of the information available . I’m looking at bicuspid aortic valve replacement in the near future and I’m trying to gauge recovery time . I am not a TAVR candidate and don’t know if I’m going with mechanical or biological valve . I’m 53 years old in reasonably good health. I had a total right knee replacement two years ago and had support post surgery for about three days . I had someone drive me to PT for the first two weeks . But by and large I did recovery on my own . I’m a single parent with two teenagers at home , two on their own , and my 84 year old mom. No other family in the area . For my knee surgery, I was home in two days and had no visitors in the hospital . Has anyone else had knee surgery and how did the open heart surgery compare? I want to be prepared if my boys will need to help and schedule around their school/college requirements. I understand the surgery but really have very little sense of what it required once released . I helped my dad after his surgery (bicuspid, aortic stenosis like me) but that was almost twenty years ago ...
Hi and welcome to the forum. You will find this place an amazing resource- I sure did prior to my surgery.
Like you, I was BAV and had my surgery at your age of 53, almost 10 weeks ago. For what it's worth, I chose mechanical valve, as I wanted to be one and done, and at 53 I was certain to need more valve surgeries in the future if I chose tissue.
The only other major surgery I've had was an emergency surgery for a blowout orbital fracture with muscle entrapment. My recovery from that was very fast, but not much comparable to my valve surgery.
As far as my valve surgery, I had a mini-sternotomy, which probably gave me quicker healing, and so my experience may be of limited value to you, unless you also get a mini. I was in the hospital for 7 days- they were going to release me after 4 days, one day earlier than planned, but had some afib and they advised that I wait a few more days before going home. By the time I got home on day 8 I was very independent. I followed the guidelines closely in terms of not lifting anything over 10 pounds and not reaching for things on high shelves, but other than that there was not much that I could not do. I was showering myself by day 3 after surgery. I was even driving by about day 9, which was sort of forced on me as my wife was wiped out from her Covid vaccine and was stuck in bed and I had prescriptions to pick up, as well as kids to transport. For me driving was a piece of cake, but this is likely because I had a mini-sternotomy, as I have not heard of anyone driving this soon who had a full sternotomy. Also, I have power steering and was very careful in terms of limiting my range of movement while driving.
 

almost_hectic

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For me driving was a piece of cake, but this is likely because I had a mini-sternotomy, as I have not heard of anyone driving this soon who had a full sternotomy. Also, I have power steering and was very careful in terms of limiting my range of movement while driving.
I was advised not to drive for 8 weeks, and if riding in a car I was to be in the back seat and never the front seat... in an accident the airbags could hit you pretty hard.
 

bosshog

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In 1988 I had a splenectomy, 2011 my first valve replacement, 2018 my second. My surgery in 88 was much harder than my heart surgeries. 2011 I was sore about 2 weeks, driving in 3, back to work in 7 weeks (industrial maintenance). 2018 I had very little pain, was driving in 2 weeks, released for work at 8 weeks.
Cardiac rehab in 2018 I think really helped my recovery as well. I was careful on my lifting, reaching, and arm use restrictions. I am sure methods and improvements in medical practices helped my recoveries get easier also.
 

pellicle

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and new aorta I performed surgery myself 2 1/2 weeks after my own surgery.
I had to read this twice ... thought man, how did you do the bypass part of the surgery yourself ;-)

to get back to the question asked by @NattyD I've not had other major surgery, but pretty much within a week or so of being home the 'bus hit me' feeling had gone, and incremental daily improvements turned into weekly and then next thing you know you're back at work wondering why nobody did your stuff while you were gone.
 

vitdoc

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I really didn’t want to do surgery 2 1/2 weeks after my own #3 open heart. But at the time I had a two person practice and my partner decided to move elsewhere. He stayed a few weeks longer than he wanted to so I could recover. For reasons I can’t remember this emergency came in and I was the only one around so I did it.
I made sure that the OR people didn’t mention my surgery in front of the patient.
I think physicians knowing what they know or thinking they know tend to be more cavalier with post op instructions . After my second open heart I was on my bicycle in one month. Looking back, that was not wise. If I fell my sternotomy may have dehissed.
I was a stupid 35y old at the time. But the point of all this is that getting over an open heart may be relatively easy after the first few weeks than some other surgeries
like knees. Certain things like anemia induced by the surgery can take a month or more to fully resolve. Patients my feel weak and tired due to the anemia.
 

Keithl

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I was advised not to drive for 8 weeks, and if riding in a car I was to be in the back seat and never the front seat... in an accident the airbags could hit you pretty hard.
yeah I was told 6 weeks and felt great when I went back to driving, but did take it easy
 

Chuck C

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I was advised not to drive for 8 weeks, and if riding in a car I was to be in the back seat and never the front seat... in an accident the airbags could hit you pretty hard.
I was definitely putting myself at some risk from air bags in driving so soon. I did a risk/reward analysis and given that I have never been in an accident with air bags opening, nor had I been in an accident in over 35 years, calculated that the risk was extremely low and decided to drive, but with extra caution.

Of course, very low risk is not zero risk- I have never been hit by lightening, but that does not mean that it won't happen today. Personally, I felt that if I was going to decide that driving 2 miles to the pharmacy to pick up my meds and dropping off my daughter at school 3 miles away was too much risk due to the possibility that I might get into an accident that would open air bags, then I should never ever drive on the freeway, even when I'm fully healed, as there is some risk of very serious injury or death every time we drive on the freeway. Many of the activities we do everyday carry some risk. It is a matter of how much risk we are willing to tolerate.

But, don't do as I do- listen to your doctors and decide for yourself. Keep in mind I am also someone who, long before surgery, did a risk/reward analysis and decided it was ok to skydive and also to scuba dive at night for lobsters alone. Not recklessly- plenty of times I abandoned the diving plans when the surf was just a little too rough, but still these activities are too risky for many folks.

I do find how people assess risk interesting. I was leaning towards getting a tissue valve, but ultimately chose mechanical. I did so to lower my risk from reoperation. Had I chose tissue valve, there would be a 100% possibility of reoperation and a very real chance of death from such reoperation. I calculated my risk of having an accident with an air bag open at less than 1/100,000. The risk of death from reoperation is many fold greater than this- probably over 1,000x greater than the risk of getting into an accident that opens the air bags. Yet, many folks in my age group choose tissue valve, thus facing certain reoperation and associated risks, yet would not dare take the risk of driving that I did. To me this does not seem logical. Perhaps it is that the fear of getting in an accident and having an air bag crush your sternum is something that is easy to visualize and is also right now, while the risk from reoperation is many years away so it is not seem as real.
 
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AZ Don

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Has anyone else had knee surgery and how did the open heart surgery compare?
My knee surgery was more difficult (for me) than my OHS in almost every way possible. In 1984 I had major surgery (the scar is several inches longer than my OHS scar) to re-align my knee cap which had been cracked previously and more recently dislocated. When I woke up after surgery my leg was resting on a machine that bent and straightened my knee, to promote cartilage growth. By far the most pain I have ever experienced. Worse than kidney stones and far worse than my heart surgery. Having run a marathon the year before, my first walk on crutches down the hallway 5 days after surgery felt just as difficult. When I went home I was bedridden for the better part of 2 weeks due to some internal bleeding and definitely needed a lot of help. After that my recovery probably progressed similarly to knee replacements. Mostly recovered in 6 months, fully recovered in a year (though I only got back to about 90%).

After OHS, while it didn't seem possible on day 1, by day 2 I was sitting in a chair and by day 3 walking all over the ward. I was home on day 5 and walking about a mile a day. Unlike my knee surgery, most of the time I was in little to no pain from the very beginning. I didn't take anything other than OTC meds once I was home and not sure I even took them much. Sneezing and coughing after OHS are rather special but rare enough that it wasn't too bothersome. Lying down is also rather difficult and I found sleeping in a recliner, which I thought I couldn't do, was the most comfortable. I was swimming before 3 months, mostly recovered in 6 months and fully recovered in a year. Although I had plenty of help at home, I was able to do everything I needed to by myself, except for driving, for which I had to wait 6 weeks.

Everybody's surgery is different but I would be surprised if you needed so much help that your family would have to adjust their schedules to do so, except possibly to drive you to follow-up appointments.
 

slipkid

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my heart surgery was the first time i've ever been under a general anaesthetic....have nothing to compare it with :)
Ditto for me. Had never been under the knife b4 until my heart attack/emergency OHS. Closest I ever got was the stuff they give you to knock you out for colonoscopy, endoscopy, and when I had my lower wisdom teeth extracted (stuck so far into my jaw they had to smash them to bits then suck out the pieces from what I recall).
 

slipkid

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I was advised not to drive for 8 weeks, and if riding in a car I was to be in the back seat and never the front seat... in an accident the airbags could hit you pretty hard.
Interesting. That makes sense but at no point in my recovery or during discharge from the hospital did anyone mention the airbag risk. I even rode home from the hospital in the front seat.

I was only told that I could resume driving once the pain in trying to sit, stretch, steer, operate the pedals, etc had subsided - think that was about 7 or 8 weeks for me. Although I had to borrow a car from my sister that was automatic transmission because was too difficult trying to operate a clutch and shift the gears.
 

slipkid

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thus
....I have never been hit by lightening, but that does not mean that it won't happen today....
Here is a crazy story for you.

During my post-op recovery - I actually missed 5 months at work although I tried to come back after 4 months but failed the physical and was told to wait another month & continue my cardiac rehab and the rehab I was in for my shoulder - I was "hit by lightning".

Where I sit and type this is in the finished basement of my house. This is my sanctuary as it were. Have the PCs down here, is my music room, etc etc.

My desk is here with two PCs on it (this laptop and an older desktop). It is against the backyard wall of the house. My backyard has a hill which slopes downward towards the house and in the summer here when we get thunderstorms the lightning likes to hit in that area or at various nearby neighbors for some unknown reason. I even had the compressor for my a/c in the backyard get blown out once years ago during a storm.

It was in August. I was sitting here on the 'net doing whatever, Both PCs were on. Had the stereo on. Did not know a thunderstorm was rolling through upstairs. Had my left leg elevated resting on top of something under the desk. My right leg/foot was on the ground - my basement does not have a raised floor btw, it is merely concrete slab covered over with carpeting.

There was a huge explosion outside in the back during which about simultaneously the power flickered, I felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer, and was propelled backwards on my desk chair (which has wheels) about ten feet, as I screamed and fell off the chair.

Afterwards my stereo emitted only a loud hum (parts inside got blown out), this laptop PC was fine but the desktop PC next to it was off but all the lights on the keyboard were on. Upstairs in the living room the dining room chandelier lights were on (even though I had never turned them on - the dimmer switch that controls them burned out), and a DVD player in one of the upstairs bedroom had turned itself on (but no longer worked).

I was OK but had to go to the hospital later that day anyway (or maybe it was the next day I 4get) for cardiac rehab & to get my blood drawn for an INR (this was b4 I was able to get a home unit to test myself) and when asked how I was (they saw me every week) I mentioned that I had been hit by lightning earlier! Someone told me I should go by a lottery ticket on the way home so I did, but I guess I had already used up my luck on escaping serious damage from that lightning hit, the ticket was not a winner.
 

Superman

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I had my first heart surgery over 30 years ago and second about 11 years ago. Neither were terribly different in terms of method, time in the hospital, and guidelines. Being 19 years older and not a teenager anymore, the second had a few bumps in recovery. Just body response to something so invasive. But I was still only in my 30’s.

My dad needed back surgery. I would say that looked harder to recover from than anything I went through. Could be that things always look harder to watch someone go through than to experience ourselves. I suppose my dad would say put me through back surgery 10 more times if I don’t have to watch my son go through heart surgery again.

Everyone seems pretty right on here. The more a procedure impacts mobility in recovery, the tougher recover will be. We all sleep through the procedures themselves. I’d rank knee, hip, and back all tougher to recover from than heart, if I had to guess (which I do).
 
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