Recovery from the Procedure

"When I first checked in to the hospital, I walked to the cardiac unit. I had to go slowly and was out of breath when I got there. Less than 24 hours after surgery, the cardiac nurses were teasing me about how I needed to slow down or I would wear out the bottom of my socks."

Brenda Schawe, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Patient 

Early Recovery in Hospital

Immediately after both SAVR and TAVR there is a period of close observation either in an intensive care unit or other unit specialized in providing care. If you had general anesthesia then there will be a period of waking up that typically lasts a few hours. There may be various monitoring devices and other equipment attached to you. For SAVR patients this period may last a day or two before you are transferred to another unit to complete your in-hospital recovery. Most patients then go home but some may require a rehabilitation period in a specialized facility. For TAVR patients some may be able to be discharged to home within 24-48 hours while others may require a longer in-hospital recovery and then be transferred to a rehabilitation center.

When will I feel the benefit of having a new valve?

The biggest difference people experience after have their valve replaced is fewer occurrences of symptoms such as breathlessness and chest pain. People also note improved stamina and less fatigue. These changes may be apparent with a week after TAVR, but may take up to a month or two months after SAVR.

In-hospital Services

Immediately after surgery, most people are able to perform very basic self-care and are soon encouraged to get up, to breathe deeply, and to resume eating, drinking and walking. A liquid or soft diet is recommended for your first meals after surgery and while in the intensive care unit. Eating small amounts of food and taking medication with food may also help alleviate nausea in the first few days after surgery.

While you are in the hospital you can expect to receive the following services. Inquire with your nurse or doctors if you have not received these services or if there is an additional service that you think you would benefit from.

  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Social worker

Recovery Process — What to Expect

The below information will give you a general timeline of what to expect during the recovery process. Please note everyone’s recovery experience will be different and based on a number of factors such as pre-procedural conditioning, general health, and the treatment approach. Patients who undergo a surgical repair will have a longer recovery period.

For both SAVR and TAVR, physical therapy and occupational therapy specialists assess the ability of a patient to go home, available support, and type of assistance needed.

SAVR patients will be dependent on a caregiver for help with most activities for the first two weeks after discharge and by four weeks, most people are capable of taking care of themselves. By 4-6 weeks, patients will be able to start driving again. Within 1-3 months, SAVR patients will enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program and really start making gains on endurance and strength. By 3-6 months, most of the healing has occurred, although the chest wall may remain sore with certain movements for 6-12 months.

For TAVR patients, discharge after the procedure and return to driving will vary depending on insertion site and presence of complications. Shorter hospital stays are possible if the TAVR is placed via the leg (femoral) artery and no procedure or post-procedure complications. Longer stays may be necessary if another location for TAVR insertion is used to allow for healing prior to discharge.

 

Activity SAVR TAVR
Out of bed/Walking SAVR |1-2 days TAVR|Same day or next day
Discharged to home SAVR |5-10 days TAVR|2-5 days
Back to usual activities SAVR |4-6 weeks TAVR |1-2 weeks
Enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation program SAVR |1-3 months TAVR |1-2 weeks
Return to driving SAVR |3-6 Months: The timing depends on healing of sternum some surgeons may recommend 6 months because bone healing takes months and steering wheel injuries during accidents could be serious. TAVR |1-4 weeks: The timing depends first on whether there are other limitations to driving present pre-TAVR. In addition, post TAVR there needs to be an assessment of a stable heart rhythm and no potential need for a pacemaker.
Back to work SAVR |2-3 months for sedentary work

6 months for manual labor

TAVR |1-4 weeks for sedentary work. For manual labor 2-4 weeks and is dependent of whether TAVR was placed via leg (femoral) artery or another location that may take longer to heal.