Support Group for Mechanical & Artificial Heart Valve Surgery & Using Warfarin
I am 39 year old female who had a mechanical aortic valve fitted in February this year. I went to the doctor on numerous occasions with breathlessness and tightness in the chest, but as i am an asthmatic it was always put down to this, and i was given steroids and told to rest, however as soon as I went back to work, the breathlessness and tight chest started up again, it was finally picked up when I saw a locum doctor who said he heard a murmur and sent me for a ultra sound, from this stage onwards everything happened so quickly, i was taken into hospital where I had an MRI scan and was told it was bad and needed a replacement valve. This was all diagnosed October last year, so all happened very quickly. I decided to go with the St Jude Mechanical valve due to my age and the surgeon advised this was the best one to use as would last me my life and not need replacement. It is now 7 weeks since my surgery and I can already feel a difference, no more tightness in the chest and I am gradually building my strength back up, i start my rehabilitation on Thursday this week. I do have to go to the hospital every week at the moment to have blood taken for my INR levels and take Walfarin every day which will be for life.
I am still trying to adjust to the ticking sound, which i can really hear all the time, especially at night, however my other half has advised he can not hear it at all unless i get very close. I can feel it when I breathe in deeply, like a thumping in my chest, it does feel like I do have a foreign object inside me at the moment. I would like to hear how other people are dealing with the valve and what advise they can give, how do you feel about the scar?
Hi Michaella and welcome to the site. I had my valve replacement just over 18 months ago now but there are people on this site with many years of experience. You have done the hard bit and now it is all down to recovery and making sure you listen to you body don't over do it. You will get used to the sound of the valve over time and after a while you won't really notice it most of the time as it will become the norm. When you breath in hard you will get that feeling of a "pounding" chest - that is entirely normal.
My scar is pretty much faded now and barely visible - the doctors told me to keep the sun off it for 12 months to prevent it from darkening. That really seems to have worked for me. I also put on Palmers Cocoa Butter cream to moisturise it - that helped with the itchy / snagging feeling you will get as the nerve endings knit back together but also helps to reduce the visibility of the scaring.
You also get used to the Warfarin and once your INR is stable it just becomes part of your daily routine. If you can get the backing of your clinic to self test I would recommend that - really does free you up from going to get your blood checked and gives you the peace of mind that you are in your target range.
Feel free to shout out any specific questions you have over the coming weeks and months - that is what we are here to help with....
Glad to hear everything is going great for you now!! I had a St. Judes Regent put in the aortic position this past August. I am back to full strength in the gym surpassing all of my previous best lifts. I completed a 5k around the 7week mark post surgery. So don't let this situation make it seem like you are limited now because you arent. Now I understand certain people are different depending on their own circumstances and reason for the procedure but if all was wrong was that you need a valve replacement then you should be able to do more then you was before activity wise. Of course you have to be careful not to cut yourself badly or get a bad bruise but who wants that to have regardless of on warfarin or not lol My insurance covered for me to get a Coagcheck PT/INR home testing kit. Makes things so much easier when you can check your INR on your own whenever you want and adjust you Warfarin accordingly. The ticking sound was noticeable the first few months but I honestly cant hear it now unless the room is really really quite. May also have to do with the muscle tissue I have built back up in the chest area to dampen the sound.Just know things are brighter now for you and the sky is the limit. I wish you the best and many prayers!!
Welcome to this wonderful site – it helped me so much.
I’m one year post Aortic Valve and Ascending Aorta replacement. John & Ryan have given really good advice. Just listen to your body, it will tell you ‘No’ too much today if that’s what it feels. I found Cardiac Rehab very helpful, it gave me the confidence to exercise harder. I was walking on a threadmill for many weeks straight away post Op, increasing my length of time walking and the speed/incline. Then approx 6weeks post Op I was riding an Electric bike, it doing most of the work for the first say 2 weeks then I increased my effort to the point where approx 12 weeks post Op I was doing approx 95% of the work. About 6 months post Op I was back using my own road bike – happy days – cycling 20+ miles (in hilly!!!! Essex ). About 3 months before the Op I didn’t think I was symptomatic (close to the Op I was very much out of breathe) but now I realise I’m so much better now than I was say 1yr before the Op. You are now on the road to recovery and things will only get better from here on in.
Scar wise – I started using Bio-oil twice a day approx 4months post Op (only because I hadn’t found it before that), I’m still using it now – it really helped me. As the months progressed I found the Scar was the bit that hurt the most, when I stretched it getting up from a chair etc it really hurt – it is so much better now.
I remember feeling the valve and I do mean ‘feeling’ it for many many weeks post Op just like you, at that time people on the website were telling me it will reduce and I kept thinking when but trust me it will reduce, now I only hear/sense it at night in bed just nodding off to sleep.
I too would recommend a Coaquchek XS to check your INR, https://shop.coaguchek.com/ I test myself every week and go to my Dr’s once a month – it’s great to have, it gives you freedom to travel and of course you don’t have to travel every week to the clinic.
Don’t hesitate to ask questions of us – we are all here to help.
Thinking of you
Hi Michaella, sorry in advance for 'stealing' your communication channel but just want to say 'Hi' to Lee-Anne. Please keep us updated on how you are doing.
Good to hear from you - glad to hear you are doing so well. My chest hurt for many months in fact it still hurts a bit now 1yr on but only if I lift say a 10 kg Cat litter tray or my dog (Lab approx 35kg) onto my bed :) So don't worry, I don't think the fact your chest still hurts is unusual - as long as it only hurts when you are doing something i.e. getting up from a sit or lifting a kettle filled with water etc talk to your Dr if if hurts without you 'stressing' it.
Best wishes to you both
I hope you are still feeling well and on the mend. How are you getting on with Cardiac Rehab? I find it really interesting and great to exercise!
Im also finding the bio oil really good for the scar as the skin is not so tight now. Hope the ticking not keeping you awake! Keep us posted how your getting on.
thank you all for your kind words and advise, i have taken it all on board. John and Ryan you have both given great advise and made alot more at ease about things especially the pounding feeling i get in my chest.
Martina I have noticed you live in hilly Essex, so do i, I'm a Chelmsford lass, where abouts are you?
Lee-Ann I am feeling so much better now, I am now 11 weeks post op and feel like a new person, I don't get breathless at all any more and the tightness etc has gone. Still got a lot of chest pain from the healing and the scar is looking very red and angry at the moment, quite sore especially when I get up in the morning. Getting used to the ticking sound and the pounding sound, feels almost reassuring to be honest. Re hab is great and really enjoying it, im actually joining a class for cardiac patients locally when its finished to carry on the exercise.
How is everyone doing, is everyone feeling ok?
Sorry for the delay in replying, just back from holiday.
Glad to hear you are doing so well – you will notice the improvements week upon week.
Yeap, I live in hilly! Essex, North Essex on the Border with Cambridge.