Living with a Mechanical Heart Valve: Click.Tick.Thump. Love It!

Support Group for Mechanical & Artificial Heart Valve Surgery & Using Warfarin

Is it ever! - But I love it! YOUR thoughts and experiences in this discussion..how it affects you, your partner, sleeping with a mechanical heart valve, questions - any other points? Put it all down here!

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It has been only a week since I had my surgery and my new aortic valve replaced and am not sure that I am in a position to tell exactly how noisy it is. I can definitely hear it and even "sense" it, but, again, my thorax wound is still very recent and my physical shape way from normal. I will be happy to re-visit this query later.
Hi Joaquin and a belated welcome to the site! Love to hear more from you about how the new valve is going and how you are learning to live with it! It takes a LONG time to get over the surgery (3 months or so) if you had the traditional open chest surgery and it hurts a lot while it is healing - especially if you cough or so! You will hear it once your recovery settles down - but as you said its more of a 'sensing it' in many ways than actually 'hearing it'...my wife hears it as a 'tick tock' I hear it as a deep thump thump thump..but if i sleep on my side with a small pillow against my chest as i do i hardly hear it all. The biggest thing to get used to is NOT to panic when you hear it when reading or quietly tapping away at your computer etc..once you are over that its pretty easy!

take care

Graeme Archer
Hello, Graeme! Thank you for your kind messages. I am thrilled to have received them! I just returned from my daily outside walk with my wife. I am now walking for 45 minutes every day, and feeling stronger also. It has been 23 days from my open thorax surgery and aortic valve replacement. I can clearly differentiate between "hearing" the valve (which is very similar to a "click, click" that does not really bother me and to which I am confident that I am already getting used) and "sensing" it. I am not sure that what I sense is the valve itself. In fact, I believe it is not. It feels more like a "pounding" inside my chest. My doctors say that my recovey is happening very fast and successfully, and that such "pounding" feeling will gradually decrease and eventually disappear once my sternum bone (and all that was done beneath it during the surgery) heals 100% and everything inside "settles", within 6 to 8 months. So, I am trying to be a good patient, and have pacience. :) What can you tell me about such "pounding" aspect of the experience? All the best. Joaquín.

Graeme Archer said:
Hi Joaquin and a belated welcome to the site! Love to hear more from you about how the new valve is going and how you are learning to live with it! It takes a LONG time to get over the surgery (3 months or so) if you had the traditional open chest surgery and it hurts a lot while it is healing - especially if you cough or so! You will hear it once your recovery settles down - but as you said its more of a 'sensing it' in many ways than actually 'hearing it'...my wife hears it as a 'tick tock' I hear it as a deep thump thump thump..but if i sleep on my side with a small pillow against my chest as i do i hardly hear it all. The biggest thing to get used to is NOT to panic when you hear it when reading or quietly tapping away at your computer etc..once you are over that its pretty easy!

take care

Graeme Archer
Aha! Yes the pounding...!

It sort of is three things.

Sensing it - that is a bit spooky but you do get used to it..

Hearing it..my wife hears a tick i hear a t'hump...thump'..its actually a very deep clicking noise i think...

The pounding..it is actually the thump thump' noise i hear..remember you are not hearing an outside noise..you are actually 'hearing' (sensing) the noise of the valve working through the hydrostatic pressure in your body..and its more of a 'sensing' than 'hearing' as using your ears for hearing is only for external sounds...

My doctor actually has a theory for this which i believe. When the surgeons do the operation they cut the peraciardium open which is the tough membrane around the heart. Most times they DO NOT sew it back up as its too fiddly a job and they want to get out of your chest as soon as possible. The peracardium is like a strong plastic bag that holds your heart back from your sternum. Once it is released your heart moves forward in your chest an inch or so and now beats right up against the sternum. The vibration from the beating heart is then felt through your body..Thus the 'thump thump'..But you DO get used to it..as one of our members on our Aortic Dissection site ( www.aorticdissection.co.uk ) said - it takes a long time to get used to feeling that your heart is not going to jump out of your chest!

But you get well, walking is excellent and don't hurry your recovery! It took me 6 months to get back to normal...

take care and stay well!

best regards

Graeme
Mine is a constant clicking and can cause me some anxiety if my environment is very quiet and its all I can hear. Hopefully it will subside somewhat as time passes
Hi Andrew. yes it messes with your head! It took me a LONG time to get used to it..and even now 7 years on if I get a bit OTT running with the dog or too much physical exertion it bangs away quite loudly so I have to shut it out of my mind..but the main thing is as one of the members said..even though it feels like it is going to jump out of your chest if you are too active sometimes - its still all good..the ticking - and even the loud thumping on heavy exercise is TOTALLY normal!

take care and enjoy life!

cheers

Graeme
To begin with the clicking kept me awake at night and drove me bonkers!!! I found listening to relxing music the only way to get to sleep.You seem to have one side where it clicks and ticks and if you roll over mine tinks, both are equally annoying!!! If you hug a pillow it does lessen the sound and also you dont feel it so much. I think to start with you are highly sensitive to your heart beat and general rythmns and your brain is almost tuned in to hear it especially at night. To start with it used to get me down but as the months pass it does get easier and you are not so sensitive to it.It has taken me over a year to almost forget it although there are times when you can feel it thumping or tinking especially after vigorous exercise. Try to view it in a positive way.Its an amazing thing inside of me which has given me a second chance of life. I should be grateful.
Thank you, Gerry. It has been 6 weeks since my surgery and although the clicking and the "thump" are still there. However, I am managing so far to ignore them for the most part, especially during the day. At night I can hear it and "feel it" clearly, but have managed to sleep very well most nights. I am convinced that, as you have been assuring me, I will become used to it. I also agree that the correct approach is to be grateful and happy about this second chance. Many, many thanks. JC.
Jerry, spot on. My 7 year anniversary approaches next month. Sometimes I find it hard to believe - 7 years! Yes it still clicks (to others) and thumps to me (I find it best to sleep on my left side and hold a pillow against my chest to muffle it even more) and often in my office I can 'feel' my heart and valve within my body working away rythmatically..it's a very strange sensation and takes a long time to get used to it..but now, 7 years on as you say - I look at it as my reassuring 'friend' and - how many people actually get to organically 'feel/sense/hear' their own heart working in unison within their body! So - we are lucky lucky people! Here's a link to my blog post about living with a mechanical heart valve on our other online Forum for Aortic Dissection Survivors. Take care everyone and LIVE your life!

Graeme

Gerry said:
To begin with the clicking kept me awake at night and drove me bonkers!!! I found listening to relxing music the only way to get to sleep.You seem to have one side where it clicks and ticks and if you roll over mine tinks, both are equally annoying!!! If you hug a pillow it does lessen the sound and also you dont feel it so much. I think to start with you are highly sensitive to your heart beat and general rythmns and your brain is almost tuned in to hear it especially at night. To start with it used to get me down but as the months pass it does get easier and you are not so sensitive to it.It has taken me over a year to almost forget it although there are times when you can feel it thumping or tinking especially after vigorous exercise. Try to view it in a positive way.Its an amazing thing inside of me which has given me a second chance of life. I should be grateful.
Hi to all,

I have just joined this forum. Reading all your views on your replacement heart valves I must add that I had my first mitral replacement in 1984 which was a Bjork Shileycc which was a very noisy valve. However ten years later (1994) I had to have this replacement valve taken out because it had been manufactured with a mechanical fault. It was replaced with a bileaflet mechanical valve which is so quiet I never hear it at any time. I understand the daily concerns and anxiety that some of us have to face with living with noisy valves, but if that's the only price we have to pay for the benefits of renewed health, then I think it's worth putting up with. Joaquin It's good that your able to go out and about for short strolls so soon after your surgery - keep up the good work. I wish you a very speedy recovery.
Thank you, Elizabeth. It has been two months since my surgery and aortic valve replacement and I can already tell you that I have begun to get used to the noise and the thumping. Besides, it is not like I have a choice :) Whenever I start to feel "down" or "annoied" by them, I go and look at my children and my wife and immediately remember how lucky and blessed I am being. Again, many thanks!

Elizabeth Teasdale said:
Hi to all,

I have just joined this forum. Reading all your views on your replacement heart valves I must add that I had my first mitral replacement in 1984 which was a Bjork Shileycc which was a very noisy valve. However ten years later (1994) I had to have this replacement valve taken out because it had been manufactured with a mechanical fault. It was replaced with a bileaflet mechanical valve which is so quiet I never hear it at any time. I understand the daily concerns and anxiety that some of us have to face with living with noisy valves, but if that's the only price we have to pay for the benefits of renewed health, then I think it's worth putting up with. Joaquin It's good that your able to go out and about for short strolls so soon after your surgery - keep up the good work. I wish you a very speedy recovery.
hey there all,
i am a recent addition from the aortic dissection site that graeme also runs. glad to be here!
i now think my valve is noisier the higher my blood pressure goes, also it seems that i can "sense" it in more places the thinner my blood is.
i have to say though that being able to hear it is actually quite reassuring. i will be the first on the phone to the ambulance when i don't!
right after i awoke from the coma i was in after my operation, i thought they had installed a valve in the back of my neck because that is where i "heard" it. i also think that my valve was never quieter than these first few weeks... maybe because the medication hadn't taken its hold.
your doctor's theory is a real scary one graeme... i, for one, hope they are talking out of their proverbials.
take care all,
r

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