British Heart Foundation

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Well it’s happened and now the realism has just hit me. I’ve just had a call from admissions at St Thomas Hospital in London and been booked in to my Bicupsid Aortic Valve Replaced on Wednesday 5th September so in 3 weeks time.

Im feeling shell shocked , pleased ,worried, anxious, all at the same time and it’s a little overwhelming I’m afraid to say. I know I’m not the first to get that call thousands will have had the same call and I bet there has been 100’s of different reactions over the years. You think you know how your going to be but it’s never the case.

I’ve just been phoning friends and family and some of their reactions have been strange also.

Any tips or advice anyone can give me will be greatly appreciated as my brain has gone into overdrive and I’m sure I’m gonna forget something really important so please help and thanks in advance


23 Replies

Hi Pete. I had my bicuspid AV replaced in April - almost 4 months ago. I'm so pleased to say that I've recovered well (I'm 57). I was walking as soon as I could and within a couple of weeks I was walking for 15-20 minutes a day - that soon became 30-45 minutes and now I'm taking long hikes and working towards completing a Couch to 5K programme.

The best advice I can give is to listen to the surgeons, nurses, doctors - do what they say. Rest. Keep calm. Eat well. Don't overdo the lifting because your chest and shoulder muscles will need time to recover and build themselves up again.

What surprised me the most after surgery was how little pain I had and how quickly I was off codeine.

Good luck and always come back here with questions as there is a lot of experience on this forum.


Hi Kim

I’m a young 61 and your reply is so reassuring and positive and helps me to be able to look forward. So glad your doing well and thank you so much for your reply

Pete 👍

Like Kim, I too had my bicusped aortic valve replaced in April.

The reality of an actual date, although anticipated, did initially come as something of a shock and realisation of the albeit acceptable risks took a bit of getting used to. But it soon became a positive, as I realised that surgery should restore near normal life expectancy along with renewed exercise tolerance.

So 4 hours surgery, maybe 24 hours in ITU then discharge on or about day 5 but encouraged to get mobile pretty much immediately.

Get a V shaped pillow so you're sleeping in an upright position for comfort and symmetrical healing.

You may lose your taste so eating, although necessary,may give little pleasure for a couple of weeks.

Initially paracetamol to get you moving in the morning and in the evening to get you some pain- free sleep for the initial 4 hours. Like Kim pain was less than imagined - more discomfort really.

Set yourself realistic exercise targets - for me it started with just four trips upstairs per day which initially was a challenge. After a couple of weeks of near zero energy levels you will begin to feel the healing and start to do more. After 12 weeks you should begin to feel mended and be doing things that were nigh impossible before surgery.

All this is conditional upon cardio rehab, either the formal support programme or self-motivated, whichever suits.

Don't forget the people that are close to you who are effected emotionally too. They will need to hear how you are doing. So don't become a recluse while you're mending.

And become as well informed as you can so there are few uncertainties as you approach surgery.

Try not to worry

Good luck.

Thanks Ian

Lots of excellent advice and I will definately follow it . Never would have considered the pillow and I will do the excercise as I’m determined to make s full recovery and get on with enjoying my life

Thank you


Hi Pete, I had my second AVR last November, aged 59. I agree with all the comments made so far. I did have a lot of pain to start with but not because of the op itself but because I have back and shoulder problems which make lying completely flat on my back very painful. I was on maximum pain relief in hospital and even then it sometimes didn’t touch the shoulder pain. Thankfully once I was home I soon only needed to take painkillers in the morning, to get moving, and at night, to get to sleep. Don’t be afraid to ask for more pain relief whilst in hospital if you need it.

Start now to strengthen your leg muscles by practicing getting up from a chair and out of bed without using your arms, you really do not want to pit pressure on your arms for the first few weeks, it hurts like hell!

Don’t overdo it once you get home, there is no set timetable for recovery. Listen to your body, you’ll find that some days you can do more than others and in the same way some days you’ll feel sociable and other days want to be left alone - this is normal, as are mood swings etc.

Lastly, use this forum. There are plenty of us on here who’ve had some form of open heart surgery, so between us we can answer most queries 😺

All the best with your op.


Ticktock61 in reply to Fredders

Hi Fredders

Thanks for your honesty and your sound advice . Your right this site is brilliant and I will keep asking as I go along the journey

Thank you


Hi Pete haven't had a valve replaced but I can appreciate all the emotions your feeling. Just stay positive and be thankful your getting fixed. You wouldn't be normal if you didn't have mixed emotions. Good luck. All members here will have you in they're thoughts. Shiona

Ticktock61 in reply to Shoshov

Hi Shiona

Thank you for your kind words it means a lot


Shoshov in reply to Ticktock61

That's what we're here for. We don't all have the same problems but we have enough empathy for everyone

Ticktock61 in reply to Shoshov

That’s fantastic thank you

Hi Pete Really pleased you’ve got your date. I know it’s scary but it must be a relief so that you can plan. It will be good to get it sorted. Take care and stay strong. Zena

Ticktock61 in reply to Zena166

Hi Zena

Thanks for your message it’s great to hear from you again I would like to say publically on the forum how fantastically supportive you’ve been to me over the past week or so

I’m hoping after the operation I can be as supportive to others as you have been to me

Pete x

Zena166 in reply to Ticktock61

Thanks Pete for your kind words I appreciate it I think everyone is so supportive here so just paying forward. Sending lots of positive thoughts and hugs. Zena x

I had my valve replaced 6 weeks ago. It is normal to worry and my anxiety was through the roof before surgery I have to say my surgery & recovery has not been as bad as I had thought. I am walking every day but taking my time, doing household chores like cooking, washing dishes. Listen to your body and rest when you need to.

My wound has healed well but still got discomfort in Sternum.

I would advise you to practice getting up from chair and bed without using your arms.

Try different pillows for sleeping upright I would do this now not wait until you have surgery.

Good luck ❤

Ticktock61 in reply to Gill1026

Hi Gill

It’s great to here your doing so wel, and doing household chores after 6 weeks it seems I’m going to be an avid walker post surgery and many people are saying listen to your body and don’t overdo it , this is great advice and pillows and sleeping is also a common theme , what a great site this is

Thank you Gill and I hope your recovery just keeps getting better and better

Pete 👍

One tip I picked up here was to get a pair of velcro closing slippers as your legs and feet will almost certainly be swollen for a while.

Wow that’s a new one for me !!!

Velcro slippers here I come

Thanks so much

Pete 😀

Hi Ticktock, I had my aorta valve replaced on 3rd August just 2 weeks ago, I'm now at home and following the walking programme.

I can't believe how quickly it all went and now I can look forward.

I've been told to wear my surgical stockings for four weeks which is no hardship. I also have a V shaped pillow and its been a great buy.

When you are admitted to Hospital just go with the flow, there will be others in the same boat, at Glenfield we supported each other and even managed to have some laughs.

Good luck my friend


Hi Alan

God two weeks ago that’s no time at all and there’s positivity in your response I can feel it. Your not the first to mention a v shaped pillow that’s definately on the bucket list. I hope I get the recovery it sounds like your having. I’m wishing you all the best and a speedy recovery .

It’s so kind of you to take the time out to respond when you’ve only just had your operation 2 weeks ago

Thanks Alan

Pete 👍👍😀😀

One thing that has stuck in my mind. Before the operation my surgeon told me. If you are positive you will heal quicker, those words have stayed with me .

Good luck 💜

Those words are now inplanted on my brain and I’m gonna keep repeating it to myself throughout the journey

Thanks my friend ❤️

My AVR was in November, and I totally agree with all the advice so far. There are still days when I overdo things, but I feel 95% of my normal self now, and with cardiac rehab, swimming and walking I hope to be even fitter than before. Having a positive mental attitude is crucial, and I can sense in your posts that you have that in abundance, so best of luck Pete. Take care of yourself.

PS. A question to the forum. When I left hospital I had one of those elastic supports around my chest. I can't see Papworth wanting it back, so I don't know what to do with it? Any ideas?

You are doing so well writing your account of before and after Surgery, I am sure it is helpful to get it out of your system too, I am following your every move. Well done and wishing you a speedy recovery.


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