Mitral valve repair recovery depends on the type of surgery that a patient has had. There are two types of surgery performed, which are traditional open-heart surgery and minimally invasive heart surgery. Minimally invasive heart surgery is much easier on patients, but it takes a very skilled cardiologist with knowledge and experience in valve repair to complete the procedure. Sometimes a new valve is put into the heart only because it is easier for a surgeon to do than repairing the patient’s existing valve. Patients need to be put on a heart-lung bypass machine during either open-heart or minimally invasive surgery. This allows the doctor to work on the heart without the patient’s blood flowing through and the heart moving as it pumps.
Minimally invasive heart surgery does not require that the patient’s ribs are broken. The surgeon goes through the third and fourth rib to access the mitral valve. Through the use of a mini-mitral retractor, the surgeons are able to see the exposed mitral valve. Surgeons are also able to see the detailed, magnified video images of the valve while looking through a high definition camera. Not all repairs can be done with minimally invasive heart surgery, and the team of surgeons will choose the option for the patient that allows for the best possible repair of the valve. Most of the time, patients know beforehand which type of surgery they will have.
Mitral valve repair recovery takes longer after open-heart surgery, and it normally takes a patient from six to eight weeks to resume normal activities. After the patient is taken from the operating room, he or she will have a breathing tube down the throat that is attached to a ventilator. They will also have IV tubes and several other tubes that are connected to monitors to keep the nursing staff aware of problems if one of the tubes or attachments is not working properly. Patients are still under anesthesia and are given medication to avoid pain when they begin to wake up. Doctors and nurses are often around the patient’s bed caring for them the day of the surgery.
Other medical equipment that is used to help the patient’s body function are a urinary catheter that empties the bladder, chest tubes that drain fluid from this area, and an orogastric tube that is removed when the breathing tube is taken out. Patients often have the most difficulty with the breathing tube because they are not able to speak as long as it is in their mouth. Once a patient can breathe independently, it is removed. Patients are not taken off the ventilator until their heart function is stable and they are not bleeding. Their other body functions must also be performing enough for the patient to be allowed to wake up and have the mouth tube removed. Some patients are able to have this occur the night of their surgery, but many patients must wait until the next day or so.
Most patients are kept in the intensive care unit for a day or two before being transferred to another floor. Almost all of them are dismissed from the hospital in five to seven days after their surgery. Recovery from this surgery is fairly quick because patients are expected to be walking to the bathroom in about two days. They are also required to take a walk in the hallway twice a day. Pain medication is given by mouth and at this point, the patient may begin to drink fluids and eat soft food. Patients generally take naps in between these exercise periods because of the natural tiredness that results from the surgery.
On the third and fourth days after the mitral valve repair, most patients begin to feel stronger. They are able to eat more and feel less tired. Progress continues, and by Day 5 after the surgery, most patients are ready to go home. It is important that they see their cardiologist about a week after this time. As the weeks go on, the patient becomes stronger and is able to exercise more.