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Heart valve repair surgery Q&As
Published by Bupa's health information team, May 2009.
Answers to questions about heart valve repair surgery
This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
My doctor says that I have a mitral valve prolapse. What is this and do I need treatment?
About five in every 100 people have a mitral valve that is slightly misshapen and leaks. You won't usually need treatment unless you have symptoms such as palpitations or chest pain.
A mitral valve prolapse can be a cause of a heart murmur (a noise from your heart caused by turbulent blood flow) but doesn't usually cause serious problems. If you have a heart murmur your GP will refer you to a cardiologist (a doctor specialising in identifying and treating conditions of the heart and blood vessels) to find out exactly what is causing it.
Mitral valve prolapses don't usually have symptoms but you may have chest pain (angina) or palpitations (an unpleasant awareness of the heartbeat, often described as a thumping in the chest).
You won't usually need treatment unless it's causing you problems. Your GP may prescribe you beta blockers (eg bisoprolol fumarate) to help with your chest pain and palpitations.
If you have a mitral valve prolapse there is a risk that your valve can become infected, especially during dental treatment or surgery. You may need to take antibiotics to prevent this.
- Valvular heart disease. British Heart Foundation. 2005. www.bhf.org.uk
- Longmore M, Wilkinson IB, Rajagopalan S. Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004:146
- Joint Formulary Committee, British National Formulary. 56th ed. London: British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, 2008:85; 90
Will I need to make any lifestyle changes after heart valve repair surgery?
After heart valve repair surgery you may be given antibiotics before having any minor surgical procedures in the future, in order to prevent infection. If your heart valve disease was caused by coronary artery disease, then you need to take measures to stop this getting worse.
Damage to the heart valves can be caused by coronary artery disease. If this has happened to you, you should change your lifestyle to prevent it from getting worse. You should:
stop smoking if you smoke
eat a healthy, balanced diet
maintain a healthy weight
A healthy balanced diet is part of reducing cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. You should change your diet to a low fat, low salt diet that includes fruit and vegetables.
If your repaired valve becomes infected, the infection can spread to the lining of your heart (this is known as endocarditis). Endocarditis is a serious condition that can lead to heart failure. After a heart valve repair operation, and for the rest of your life, you will need to take measures to prevent infection.
To help prevent infection, you should practice good dental hygiene and have regular dental checkups. This stops the bacteria in your mouth from entering your bloodstream.
If you're having a surgical procedure and your doctor/surgeon thinks you may have an infection you will be given antibiotics. If you're at risk of endocarditis you will be given different antibiotics that kill the bacteria responsible for endocarditis. This helps to prevent your valve from becoming infected.
It's important to tell your dentist or doctor that you have heart valve disease before your procedure so that he or she can decide if you need antibiotics.
For more information about preventing endocarditis and about reducing cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, talk to your GP.
- Lung B, Gohlke-Barwolf C, Tornos P et al (on behalf of the Working Group on Valvular Heart Disease. Recommendations on the management of the asymptomatic patient with valvular heart disease. Eur Heart J 2002; 23:1253. http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org
- Angina. British Heart Foundation. www.bhf.org.uk, accessed 30 April 2008
- Simon C, Everitt H, Kendrick T. Oxford Handbook of General Practice. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007: 348-349;366-367
- Vahanian A, Baumgartner H, Bax J et al. Guidelines on the management of valvular heart disease. Eur Heart J 2007; 28:230-268. http://eurheartj.oxfordjournals.org
- Blood pressure. British Heart Foundation, 2005. www.bhf.org.uk
- Longmore M, Wilkinson IB, Rajagopalan S. Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. 6th ed. Oxford, 2004:140-142
- Preventing infective endocarditis. National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), 2008, Information about NICE clinical guideline 64. wwww.nice.org.uk
When can I start exercising after heart valve repair surgery and what is suitable for me?
Your physiotherapist will help you start moving around about two days after your surgery. Once you get home you should build your activity levels up slowly until you're moving around as much as you were before the surgery.
It's important to keep active when you get home after your surgery. Try to do the same amount of exercise at home as you did with the physiotherapist at hospital.
It's important to rest properly as well. When you sit down, make sure that you have your feet raised, on a stool for example. Your legs should be supported too, so don't sit too far away from the stool. You should set aside specific times to rest and make sure that you stick to them.
After the first few days you can start to build up the amount of exercise you do. Gentle walking is a good way to do this. Ask your physiotherapist for more information about suitable exercises and how to build up your levels of activity.
The best kind of exercise for your heart is aerobic activity. Aerobic activity can be any repetitive exercise that involves the large muscle groups of your legs, shoulders or arms. You can try:
It's very important to increase your levels of physical activity gradually. You shouldn't do any strenuous or vigorous activity such as weightlifting as this can put a strain on your heart.
With any exercise, you may want to involve your partner, family or friends to make it more fun.
You should stop exercising immediately if you feel:
shortness of breath
dizzy or light-headed
If you develop any of these symptoms and they don't go away after a few minutes you should see your GP.
- Having heart surgery. British Heart Foundation, 2005. www.bhf.org.uk
- Physical activity and your heart. British Heart Foundation, 2005. www.bhf.org.uk
- Get active. British Heart Foundation, 2005, G12. www.bhf.org.uk
- Get active for your heart. British Heart Foundation. www.bhf.org.uk, accessed 10 April 2008
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
Publication date: May 2009