After Heart Valve Surgery: At Home

Your healthcare provider performed surgery to repair or replace one or more of your heart valves. These valves make sure that blood flows through your heart the right way. You had heart valve surgery to improve the flow of blood through your heart. It should also decrease or stop the symptoms you have been having.

Home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • Avoid using very hot water while showering. It can affect your circulation and make you dizzy.

  • Clean your incision every day with soap and water. Gently pat dry the area of the incision. Don’t use any powders, lotions, antibiotic creams, or oils on your incision until it is well healed. Healing takes several weeks.

  • Weigh yourself every day, at the same time of day, and in the same kind of clothes.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you feel depressed, have trouble sleeping, or have a persistent decrease in appetite. These are common problems after surgery, but they can slow your recovery. It’s important to seek help.

  • Your healthcare provider may tell you to take antibiotics before having any dental work. Some people who have had heart valve surgery must take antibiotics before dental work. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about any special instructions for dental cleanings or procedures.


  • Discuss with your healthcare provider what you can and can’t do as you recover. You will have good and bad days. This is normal.

  • Let others drive for the first 3-6 weeks after your surgery.

  • Ask someone to stand nearby while you shower or do other activities, just in case you need help.

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for 6-8 weeks. Your healthcare provider may give you a specific weight restriction. 

  • Until approved by your healthcare provider, avoid mowing the lawn, vacuuming, or other activities that could strain your breastbone.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can expect to return to work.

Lifestyle changes

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Get help to lose any extra pounds.

  • Cut back on salt.

    • Limit canned, dried, packaged, and fast foods.

    • Don’t add salt to your food at the table.

    • Season foods with herbs instead of salt when you cook.

  • Break the smoking habit. If you smoke, enroll in a stop-smoking program to improve your chances of success.

  • Ask your healthcare provider when you can start a walking program.

    • If you haven’t already started a walking program in the hospital, begin with short walks (about 5 minutes) at home. Go a little longer each day.

    • Choose a safe place with a level surface, such as a local park or mall.

    • Wear supportive shoes to prevent injury to knees and ankles.

    • Walk with someone. It’s more fun and helps you stay with it.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Chest pain or a return of the heart symptoms you had prior to surgery

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Redness, swelling, drainage, or warmth at the incision site

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fainting

  • Weight gain of more than 3 pounds in 24 hours or more than 5 pounds in 1 week(s)

  • New or increased swelling in your hands, feet, or ankles

  • Pain that cannot be relieved or changes in the location, type, or severity of pain

  • Fast or irregular pulse

  • Unrelieved pain in your incision