Find over 200 print-friendly fact sheets about heart disease and related health topics.
Learn how heart conditions are treated and the benefits and possible risks that come along with each type of treatment.
If you or your child have a heart defect, it can be very scary. But there are a number of treatment options depending on the type of defect and the symptoms. It’s important to find a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart defects and get support. Learn more about treatment.
My wife is diagnosed with a faulty tricuspid valve and we are to see the surgeon on Friday. She is 76. What is the typical recovery time for a person of her age for an operation to repair the valve? Will she need home care after the hospitalization? How quickly is the leakage caused by the faulty valve eliminated or greatly reduced following the surgery? What questions should we ask the surgeon?
Typical recovery time is dependent upon the extent of the incision and what other things need to be done. If it is a full sternotomy (operation that involves cutting through the sternum), then typical time is about 6–8 weeks. Most people would spend one week or so of that time in the hospital, then follow with rehab. It is safe to assume that a 76 year old person, unless she is in excellent shape, will require some sort of home-health aide after discharge. If the patient has a protracted hospital course, they might need to go to skilled nursing facility for a few weeks after being discharged from the hospital. Typically you see the results on intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) in the OR. Most of the time, a pre-discharge echocardiogram is performed. The health benefits might take a while, perhaps a few months.
Ideally, tricuspid valve repair requires an experienced surgeon and an experienced center. Here are some questions to ask of the surgeon: How many such operations have done by the surgeon in the last five years? What other procedures does she need along with tricuspid valve repair? How does the surgeon plan to repair the valve valve—a ring, a Kay approach, or a replacement? What are the long-term outcomes of the chosen approach? Also ask how the patient’s right ventricle is functioning, as that will affect outcomes.
There are also questions to ask about the site where the surgery will be performed. What is the rate of post-op AFib? What is the site’s infection rate? What is the complication rate?
Milind Desai, MD, FACC
I am happy to hear that your mother did well after she suffered a heart attack. These days most heart attacks can be treated with angioplasty and coronary stents, which are small tubes made of a metal mesh to prop the vessel open. However, in some cases, patients have additional blockages in other coronary vessels that need to be treated. Depending on the number, location, and complexity of these blockages, physicians may choose to place additional stents at a later stage (usually not during the initial procedure to treat the heart attack) or refer the patient for coronary by-pass surgery. The timing of surgery, which alludes directly to your question, depends on whether the patient is clinically stable or not. If the patient is stable, which means that he or she is not having further episodes of chest pain and shortness of breath, and the blood pressure is not low, there is no need to rush to surgery and the patient can wait 24-48 hours or even longer. Sometimes the patient may be stable, but the blockage is located in a critical spot, such as the principal vessel that supplies most blood flow to the heart muscle (left main coronary artery). In these cases it is better not to wait and perform the surgery within 24-48 hours. As you can see, the timing of by-pass surgery depends on many factors and most decisions are individualized. It is always good to have an informed discussion with the doctor taking care of the patient to understand the decisions being made. I hope I was able to answer your question.
Mauricio G. Cohen, MD, FACC
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