Going Home and Recovery
Before your heart valve or other structural heart procedure, it’s important to plan ahead for your recovery at home. After your procedure in our Henry Ford Center for Structural Heart Disease, it may take 1 to 3 months to completely recover depending on your procedure and overall health. You will need help for part or all of that time.
Going home after your heart procedure at Henry Ford
Everyone’s recovery is different, so you should talk with your physician and other members of your care team about how much help you will need and for how long. Together, we will help you develop a comprehensive recovery plan—tailored to your individual needs—to ensure your safe, complete recovery.
For all of our patients, we recommend:
If you live alone, you should either arrange for someone to stay with you, or stay with family or friends for at least the first week so that they can help you transition home.
If you are from outside the Detroit area, it’s best to stay 1 night close to the hospital before your trip home. We offer Guest Housing right on our hospital campus for your and your family’s convenience. Find out more about Guest Housing, and make reservations by calling (313) 916-3299.
Before you are discharged from Henry Ford, your nurse will review your medications with you. If your care team has given you new prescriptions, you may have them filled either:
- Through our discharge medication service
- At the pharmacy of your preference
Your primary healthcare provider will review your medications with you during your first follow-up appointment. Please bring your hospital discharge papers to that visit.
Caring for your incision after your procedure
Depending on the type of procedure you have had, you may have one or more incisions either in your groin or your chest. Your Henry Ford physician will talk with you ahead of time about the types of incisions you will have.
Your incision(s) may fall into the following categories:
- Transcatheter procedure: You likely will have small incisions in both groins (area at the top of each thigh) from the catheters used during the procedure. If you had a transfemoral procedure (a catheter procedure through the main artery in your thigh), one groin will have a larger incision and may be bruised or tender.
- Chest procedure: You will have either a small incision in your upper sternum (breastbone) or between your ribs on your left side.
Our general instructions for taking care of your incision include:
- Keep the surgical incision dry and open to air. If the incision becomes irritated from clothing rubbing it, try applying a light gauze dressing.
- Do not use any lotions, oils or powders on or near the incision.
- Check your incision sites daily. Contact your physician if you have any of the following problems:
- Redness, swelling and warmth that does not go away
- Yellow or green drainage from the wound
- Fever and chills
- Increasing numbness in your legs
- Worsening pain at the site
Care for groin incisions
If you have a groin incision, you may:
- Take a shower when you return home, and pat the site dry with a towel
- Leave the clear dressing over the site for up to 1 week or until it falls off
It is normal to have bruising or a soft lump at the groin incision site. It is not normal if the lump suddenly becomes larger or more firm. These signs may mean that you are bleeding.
If this problem happens, you should:
- Lie down.
- Have someone press down hard on your leg, just above the incision. If, after 15 minutes of pressure, the lump does not become larger or harder, the person is putting pressure correctly.
- If the bleeding has stopped after 15 minutes, rest and stay lying down for at least 2 hours.
- If the bleeding continues, call 911 for an ambulance. Do not drive yourself or have someone else drive you to the hospital.
Care for breastbone incisions
If you have a breastbone incision, you:
- May shower when you return home unless specifically instructed not to by your care team at discharge (Be sure to pat the site dry with a towel.)
- Should avoid lifting objects heavier than a gallon of milk (8 pounds) and stretching, twisting or pulling with your arms for at least 3 months to ensure strong bone healing
- Should avoid tub baths and swimming for at least 6 weeks
- Should notify your physician if you feel a popping of the breastbone with movement
Your Henry Ford care team and your primary care provider will see you after your procedure to monitor your recovery. Here’s what you can expect for follow-up:
- You will see your primary care provider within 1 to 2 weeks after your discharge from Henry Ford.
- You will see your physician at the Center for Structural Heart Disease 30 days, 45 days and 1 year after your procedure. We will make an appointment for you before you are discharged. If your appointment is not noted on your discharge papers, please call (313) 916-1861.
- At your Henry Ford appointments, you will have tests including an echocardiogram, blood work and functional assessment, in addition to your clinic visit.
Nutrition and fluids during your recovery
To help you regain your strength, it’s important to eat healthy foods and get the right amount of fluids. We recommend you:
- Attend classes about heart-healthy eating through our cardiac rehabilitation program or one that is near you.
- Choose healthy foods even if you don’t feel like eating at first. Some people find that they have a poor appetite for 2 to 4 weeks after their procedure.
- Talk with your physician about the amount of fluids you should drink if you were required to limit the amount of fluid you drank before your procedure.
- Get more details about a heart-healthy lifestyle in our Heart Smart® program with heart-healthy recipes, cookbooks and lifestyle tips.
Physical activity during your recovery
Daily activity and exercise are an important part of your recovery. Ask your physician about a plan for your physical activity that’s customized to your needs. In general, our recommendations include:
- Follow the steps below for physical activity until you begin cardiac rehabilitation.
- Move through Step 1 to 4 at your own pace. Take 2 to 7 days to complete each step.
- Pay attention to the way you feel whenever you increase your activity or add new activities.
- If you have any symptoms (unusual tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain or dizziness), stop the activity. Go back to the step in which you had no symptoms.
Physical activity: Step 1
- Get dressed in the morning.
- Take care of your personal needs (personal washing, making meals).
- Keep activities easy: Do them for short amounts of time with rest periods.
- Walk around the house.
- Take stairs slowly, with rests.
Physical activity: Step 2
- Gradually return to activities around the house that don’t involve long periods of standing or using your arms, which causes more strain on your body.
- Walks should feel light and easy.
- Walk for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, once or twice a day (such as a morning and afternoon walk).
- Stay close to home, and avoid hills.
Physical activity: Step 3
- Do a few more activities around the house, such as making your bed, cooking simple meals or watering plants.
- These walks should feel easy.
- Continue to walk once or twice a day.
- Over several days, lengthen your walks. For example, add 5 minutes every day or 2.
Physical activity: Step 4
- Gradually start returning to your usual activities, such as shopping, light gardening or going out with friends.
- When a 15-minute walk feels easy, you may increase your walking speed to a level that feels moderate.
- Begin cardiac rehabilitation.
- Continue to lengthen your walks until you are walking a total of 30 or more minutes, 5 to 6 days per week.
Daily activities and cardiac rehabilitation
As you progress through your recovery, our recommendations for daily activities include:
- Avoid activities in which you would be lifting, pushing or pulling more than 10 pounds, such as grocery shopping, vacuuming, gardening or golfing, for the following time periods:
- 1 week with a groin incision for a transcatheter procedure like TAVR
- 3 months for open-heart procedures through the breastbone
After your incision’s initial healing process, we recommend cardiac rehabilitation for all of our patients. Cardiac rehabilitation can help you:
- Rebuild stamina, strength and balance
- Learn how to safely participate in activities and regain the confidence to do so
- Return to activities of daily living
Ask about cardiac rehabilitation at your follow-up appointments with your primary care physician and your Structural Heart care team. You can participate in a cardiac rehab program:
- At Henry Ford: Call (313) 972-4030 to find a program near you.
- Near you, if you live outside southern Michigan: Ask your physician for a recommendation.
Our general recommendations for driving include:
- Do not drive for 2 weeks after your procedure.
- If your physician has told you that you should not drive, you must get your physician’s approval before you begin driving again.
- When you resume driving, you must have someone with you.
Reporting your health history
Now that you have had a heart procedure, you will need to notify your other healthcare providers about it when you receive care. We help make it easy to report your health history with an identification card:
- You will receive a heart valve identification card either at the time of your procedure or in the mail after you return home.
- Keep the card in your wallet at all times, and make a copy for your files in case the card gets lost.
When you need healthcare, here’s how to inform your providers about your heart procedure:
- If you go to the Emergency Department or are admitted to the hospital in the first month after your procedure, ask the providers to call the Center for Structural Heart Disease at (313) 916-1878.
- If you have dental work or any other medical procedures:
- Show them your wallet card.
- Tell them you have a prosthetic heart valve.
- Dental work performed after receiving a new heart valve may result in the valve becoming infected. Tell your dentist that you need antibiotic therapy for dental procedures.
Your heart procedure: What to expect
As you prepare for your procedure at the Henry Ford Center for Structural Heart Disease, you’ll find helpful information about what to expect throughout your treatment process:
- What to Expect: We’ve outlined the entire process of the patient experience at Henry Ford. Learn more >>
- Preparing for your procedure: We’ve listed everything you need to do to prepare for your heart procedure. Learn more >>
- Day of your procedure: Find out what to bring and where to go on the day of your procedure. Learn more >>
- After your procedure: Your recovery begins with a short hospital stay at Henry Ford. Learn more >>