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Heart Problems Post-Operative

Updated on October 12, 2015

It's my job to keep my heart ticking.


When a heart valve has been replaced the next battle is keeping the new valve healthy.

When my chest was cracked open and a new valve replaced a malfunctioning one, my first major skirmish was expanding my lung capacity by overcoming the pains from coughing and inhaling deeply.

What I didn't realize was that I was starting a longer battle against a silent killer, the possibility that the new porcine valve would get infected.

If I have a colonoscopy to make sure my colon is free of dangerous polyps, if I need any significant dental work done, or plan another surgery such as the gall bladder surgery I will need someday, I have to plan ahead and take an antibiotic prescription to my pharmacist and start popping pills to avoid infecting my new heart valve.

If I am lucky, my nicely functioning porcine valve will keep on functioning for the next 10 to 15 years. That is the reasonable expectancy for our partnership.

If I am not careful and lucky, our partnership could end unexpectedly much sooner.

Before that element of my successful 45 minutes surgery was as clear as it is now, I had my routine colonoscopy and some dental work done without taking the needed antibiotics before or after what I mistakenly thought of as routine.

I mention this here in response to my own surprise at having missed the importance of making sure I am properly protecting my new heart valve.

It is reasonable to think that one or all of my health providers may have given me that needed alert during my post-operative hospital stay, my regular visits with my surgeon, visits to my other cardiologists, and before my routine physicals, and checking in for my colonoscopy and dental care.

But, if I was properly cautioned about being careful and how to do just that, the alerts fell on deaf ears until my most recent semi-annual visit to my cardiologist 28 months after my successful heart valve surgery.

When I was alerted to "call us and get an antibiotic prescription before any surgery or dental care so you can already have that protection when you get the care," it came as a total surprise to think that I may have already avoided two bullets without realizing it.

In checking in for the colonoscopy, and later for the dental care, my medical history was taken, but no one asked "are you taking the needed antibiotic?"

If that looks like a weakness in our health care systems, I would say that it does to me.

Once again, the patient has a large responsibility for their own medical well-being. Health care professionals, pressed for time and with heavier patient loads resulting from the Affordable Care Act, still have an essential role to play in monitoring and serving their patients' health care needs.

Knowledge is power. It can even be life saving.


© 2015 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.

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    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      4 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      aviannovice - That advising wish sounds like one I will cherish. Prospering may be a challenge but the "live long" seems doable. I still have 12.5 years to go, if I live as long as my dad, and 25.5 years to go, if I live as long as my mom. Both lived well all those "remainder" years.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're definitely right on that account. In speaking to people being cared for by socialized medicine, it is the same everywhere. The only thing to watch out for is the longer waits between visits. Keep a reminder book somewhere, Demas, live long and prosper!

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Jodah - Me too, or I might never have known!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      This was quite worrying that you did not have this all explained to you before hand Demas. Most people place their total trust in their physicians/specialists to tell them everything they need to know. Just glad you were made aware before something happened.

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Dear F.A.,

      I am humming along just fine, and so is the aortic heart valve some piggy sacrificed for me, though it was definitely not LambChop.

      I accept your good wishes with pleasure.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      That's some important information, and especially if a patient is struggling with memory issues or otherwise needs help taking all their Meds, this is critical to know. I wish you continued progress and good health.

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      rebeccamealey - Hoping you are keeping your beautiful heart healthy so you can enjoy what comes along with its good health. Nice of you to stop by again. Thanks.

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      MizBejabbers - Perhaps the word will get around and save someone a lot of grief, or worse. Thanks for your faithful following and read of this one.

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Venkatachari M - Thank you for sharing yours here on HP!

    • Perspycacious profile imageAUTHOR

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      annart - One of the best things about HP is the mutual sharing of our collective knowledge and experience. I agree.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That is a refreshing way to look at it, Peri. You are so wise. Best to you!

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      5 years ago from Beautiful South

      Yes, and make sure you faithfully take those antibiotics, Demas. I am surprised that the doctors and dentist don't ask you if you've taken your meds. I have mytral valve prolapse, and I've been told it is minor enough that the valve won't ever need replacing. However, I'm asked every time I go to the dentist office if I've taken my antibiotics. One day I forgot, and the dentist gave me some and waited 30 minutes to give them time to take effect before proceeding.

      Later, my present dentist got new information that antibiotics weren't needed before the procedure, but I insist on taking them. I read about a man who didn't know he had a heart problem and got an infection after a dental procedure. He ended up having to have a heart transplant. It is very important to take those meds. I'm glad you are warning people.

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 

      5 years ago from Hyderabad, India

      Very useful article. Thanks for sharing your views and experiences.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      Interesting! Everyone should know that as it's rather vital. I didn't realise so many things affected the heart valve but I suppose when you think about just about everything would as it's literally the core of life for our bodies.

      Great to bring this to everyone's attention, Demas.




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