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British Heart Foundation
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Newbie fearing heart surgery

Hi everyone. I was recently diagnosed with mitral valve regurgition. I'm 47 years old, consider myself physically fit, do a physically active job, have never shown any symptoms (apart from chest pain, when I had a bad cold in May....which is when the condition was found). I still need to have the TOE (TEE) procedure, with the possibility of open heart surgery in the future, and I am having quite a hard time getting my head around the situation.

My question is....after the open heart surgery, realistically, how long does it take to get back to a good level of fitness (lifting heavy weights, etc), or is that something I would no longer be able to do....full stop?

8 Replies

Hello Phil, welcome to the forum, it is very normal to be apprehensive, but there are good reasons to be cheerful that its been found.

The surgery is quite intrusive but a lot will depend on your level of fitness pre-op. You can expect to be doing very little,aside walking for six weeks or so post op and you will be invited to a cardio rehab class as well. I would recommend you join this as it will educate you in what you can do in more ways than just exercise. The weights bit, well nothing heavier than say a bag of sugar whilst your sternum heals, six weeks or so, and then a gradual build up. I am ten months post mine and getting back to near normal has been a struggle, mind i never professed to be fit pre op but I am in a gym and I, and many others on here, do an awful lot of walking.

Many of our little band will be along to offer more advice, just ask away we are more than happy to help

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Hi Phil, I had/have aortic valve regurgitation. I had my first op in 2011 aged 52 and had a tissue valve, but that one now leaks so am having a mechanical one in two weeks time. You will be able to lift weights again, it will just take a while. After my first op they had me out of bed the following day and walking about. I was in hospital for a week and then off work for another 12 weeks. I was driving again after six weeks. You will feel like you've been run over by a tank initially, which is hardly surprising when you consider your chest has been opened up. Best advice is to do what they tell you to do and don't do what they tell you not to do - they've got a lot more experience than us! Also don't be a martyr, take the painkillers, they give them to you for a reason and they really do help you to get up and about, you can gradually cut down on them as you recover. It takes 12 weeks for the sturnum to fuse, but you will be able to build up your exercise slowly and eventually your op will be a thing of the past!

If you need any info just shout, there are quite a few of us on here who have had AVR or MVR ops.



Hi Phil, I had my mitral valve replaced with a mechanical one about 15 months ago. I strongly echo the comments of skid112 and Fredders. If you have the op it is a big one and will take a long time to recover - it was about three months before I began to feel normal and I had confidence in the strength of my chest. The key thing is to take things very slowly and follow the advice they give you closely. Moving up from 50 yards to 100 yards walking is progress! Although there is a strong urge to do more especially lifting things don't do it. This is tough when you know normally you could help and you have to stand by and watch someone else do all the hard work.

As regards your current situation the key thing is to accept you have a problem and it must be dealt with. Once you accept that and realise many other people have been through the same thing and have made excellent recoveries it becomes easier. In particular you know if it is problem A then it will be procedure X etc - this helps to reduce the uncertainty. Try not to worry about the tests - without the results they can't make a good diagnosis - once they have all the data they'll know what to do. The TOE is uncomfortable but not painful and for me that and the echo, as well as bloods, were the best tests for me.

Most important of all it is vital that you stay positive and focus on getting better. Good luck.



Many thanks for the replies guys. Greatly appreciated.

My concern regarding lifting was due to the fact that my job involves lifting heavy boxes of/and furniture weighing anything up to 45 kilos.

I have yet to discuss the implications of possible surgery with my employer, as being a retail business, any role involves some degree of lifting.

If surgery becomes the only route, I have to seriously consider my job/career options.

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Speak to your employer. They may be able to find you something else to do whilst you recover. Might be worthwhile checking your employment contract too.


Hi there,

I am 18 days post op for mitral valve replacement..i am 45years old

There is amazing advice on here.

The sternum needs a good 3 months to heal and upto a year fully regardless of current health.

Its basically no lifting for the first 6 weeks..i have and have and really really hurt myself.

Have the Toe and see what the surgeon says..it is good news its been found

Stay positive

Good luck


Hi PhiliDV, my hubby (your age) has just had open heart surgery to have mechanical valve fitted. He is a builder & has been told he should get back to his normal job within 3 months. Everyone is different though & the main advice I've got from reading posts on here is to not push things to quick & listen to your body. Good luck with everything x


Hi, I had my aortic valve replaced 5yrs ago via open heart surgery at the age of 28, I've since gone back to doing everything I used too if not more and even had a baby and currently 28wks pregnant again! I was back to work in 11weeks and back with personal trainer 6months later. Could have gone back sooner but was lazy lol! Good luck and if it's OHS you need then it really isn't as bad as you think! Recovery is slow but don't rush things as it will only make you feel worse and undo some of the progress you will have made. Be patient it's worth it :-)

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