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Aortic Valve Replacement
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Aortic valve replacement is surgery to put a new aortic valve in your heart. Your aortic valve separates the lower section of your heart from your aorta. The aorta is the large blood vessel that carries blood from your heart to your body. Your aortic valve opens and closes to let blood flow from your heart. When your aortic valve does not open or close as it should, the amount of blood that your heart can pump to your body decreases.
- Antiplatelets help prevent blood clots. This medicine makes it more likely for you to bleed or bruise.
- Blood thinners help prevent blood clots. Examples of blood thinners include heparin and warfarin. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. The following are general safety guidelines to follow while you are taking a blood thinner:
- Watch for bleeding and bruising while you take blood thinners. Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth on your skin, and a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth. This can keep your skin and gums from bleeding. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Do not play contact sports.
- Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take anticoagulants. Wear a bracelet or necklace that says you take this medicine.
- Do not start or stop any medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Many medicines cannot be used with blood thinners.
- Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much.
- Warfarin is a blood thinner that you may need to take. The following are things you should be aware of if you take warfarin.
- Foods and medicines can affect the amount of warfarin in your blood. Do not make major changes to your diet while you take warfarin. Warfarin works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found in green leafy vegetables and certain other foods. Ask for more information about what to eat when you are taking warfarin.
- You will need to see your healthcare provider for follow-up visits when you are on warfarin. You will need regular blood tests. These tests are used to decide how much medicine you need.
- Heart medicine: This medicine is given to strengthen or regulate your heartbeat. It also may help your heart in other ways. Talk with your caregiver to find out what your heart medicine is and why you are taking it.
- Blood pressure medicine: This is given to lower your blood pressure. A controlled blood pressure helps protect your organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys. Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed.
- Antibiotics: This medicine will help kill germs that may get into your blood and cause an infection in your heart. Healthcare providers may tell you to take antibiotics before and after dental work, surgery, and some procedures. This is important after heart valve disease.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Care for your wound:
Ask healthcare providers how to take care of your incision wound. Check your wound, clean it, and change the bandages each day. If the bandage gets dirty or falls off, put on a new one.
Take care of your teeth and gums. Brush and floss your teeth, and see your dentist regularly. You may help prevent an infection in your heart if you do this. Tell your dentist that you have had heart valve surgery.
Your cardiologist or heart surgeon may recommend that you attend cardiac rehabilitation (rehab). This is a program run by specialists who will help you safely strengthen your heart and prevent more heart disease. The plan includes exercise, relaxation, stress management, and heart-healthy nutrition. Healthcare providers will also check to make sure any medicines you are taking are working. The plan may also include instructions for when you can drive, return to work, and do other normal daily activities.
Good nutrition for your heart:
Get enough calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals to help prevent poor nutrition and muscle wasting. You may be told to eat foods low in cholesterol or sodium (salt). You also may be told to limit saturated and trans fats. Do eat foods that contain healthy fats, such as walnuts, salmon, and canola and soybean oils. Eat foods that help protect the heart, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, and sources of fiber. Ask what a healthy weight is for you. Set goals to reach and stay at that weight.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have a fever.
- Your wound area is painful, red, or oozing fluid.
- You feel too tired for normal activities weeks after your surgery.
- Your hands, ankles, or feet are swollen.
- You urinate less, or not at all.
- You feel tired or weak and are short of breath.
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- You have blood in your bowel movements or urine. You are bleeding from your nose, mouth, or incision wound.
- You have a severe headache. This may feel like the worst headache of your life.
- You have weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face. This may happen on only 1 side of your body.
- You feel lightheaded, dizzy, or sick to your stomach. You may have cold sweats and bluish skin, lips, or nail beds.
- You have trouble breathing or are coughing up blood. You may have more pain when you take deep breaths or cough.
- You have chest pain, or discomfort that spreads to your arms, jaw, or back, or sudden back pain.
- You are confused or have problems speaking or understanding speech. You have vision changes or loss of vision.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.