After surgery you will be taken to the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CVICU) for three to four days. When you wake up, you will have a tube in your throat that helps you breathe but prevents you from being able to talk. The breathing tube will be removed when you are awake enough to breathe on your own.
You will also have small pacing wires attached to your heart that help keep your heart beat regular. These wires come out through the skin and may be attached to a small box called a pacemaker. They are temporary and will be removed before you leave the hospital.
Some pain right after surgery is normal, and your nurse will give you medication to control it. Most patients have less pain two to three days after surgery. Getting out of bed and walking will help.
You’ll stay in the hospital as long as your doctors feel is necessary, usually about 10 to 20 days.
After you leave the hospital, you will continue recovering at home. For the first eight weeks, you’ll have some limits on your everyday activities and should not lift anything over 10 pounds. During your recovery period, the transplant team will watch your progress closely.
The transplant team will see you regularly after your transplant for blood work, testing and clinic visits; after one year, we will only need to see you twice a year. You must be available for clinic visits, lab tests, echocardiograms and heart biopsies so that your doctor can see how well your new heart is working. Patients who have problems may need to be seen more often.
Most heart transplant recipients go on to lead busy, productive, fulfilling lives after their surgeries. Many return to normal activities within a few months and have few restrictions on activities they can participate in.
Diet and exercise are both important to the continued health of your new heart. You’ll work with your doctor or a cardiac rehabilitation specialist to develop an exercise plan to help you gain strength and improve your quality of life. A low-fat, low-sodium diet will also be recommended to reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and fluid retention.
Through the Houston Methodist My New Life program, you’ll also have access to seminars and other resources to help you stay healthy and enjoy life after your transplant. We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response to this program among our post-transplant patients not just for the educational benefits, but also for the chance to meet other transplant patients as you continue your journey through this new life.
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