Exercise after heart surgery.

I recently underwent surgery to replace a bicuspid Aortic valve with a tissue valve. I'm 18 years old and was born with Aortic valve stenosis with aortic regurgitation. My surgery was on the 1st of November at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. I have (had) a keen passion for weight lifting, before my cardiologist recommended I stop lifting a couple of years ago. I have now been given the all clear to perform any activity I wish and continue to have annual check ups until the valve fails. I am currently nearly 11 weeks post surgery and extremely keen to get back to my lifting. I am unsure whether this would be a wise time to start?If I were to start, I would obviously build my way back up slowly. I am just worried about doing damage to my sternum. I can take part in everything I did prior to my surgery (obviously I didn't do any exercise in the months before) but I still feel breathless if I rush up the stairs, for example.I am currently in the transition phase between paediatric and adult services and I am therefore transferring cardiologist.They recommended about 3 months post surgery to allow my sternum to heal. This would be in the next few weeks, will I begin to feel better by this time in regard to my breathlessness? I don't have pain particularly, just a terrible muscular issue in my back due to being hunched over, and am getting it looked at in the next few days. Any response on this would be appreciated.ThanksSam

Hi Sam,
If you still get short of breath with minor exercise it means either you have not yet fully recovered or you are de-conditioned. In the first case you might have a residual pleural effusion and atelectasis preventing your lungs to ventilate properly, not uncommon after heart surgery. A chest X ray should do the trick to (dis)prove the its presence.

If your heart and lungs are now functioning normally as expected after a successful aortic valve replacement, gradually progressive exercising is indeed appropriate, but I would recommend aerobic exercise rather than weight lifting, which doesn't do much except create muscle mass and will not make you healthier cardaic-wise.

In either case you need to be cleared by your doctors. As far as your breast bone is concerned, it takes indeed about 6 weeks minimum. Once fully healed, there should be no restrictions. Start sllowly!
Hope this helps,
Dr T


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