Gail’s Pounding Heartbeat Question Triggers A Memory

There are some things about my aortic valve replacement surgery that I will never, ever, never, ever, nehhhhh-verrrrr forget. (To learn more, click here.)

One such memory is that of my LOUD and POUNDING heartbeat on the second night home from the hospital. It was around 10pm on a Monday evening. Robyn, my wife, had just laid down next to me in bed. We talked for a bit and then, after exchanging “I Love Yous”, we entered that silent period right before sleep.

As we laid quietly in the dark, my new heart decided to make its presence known. A “Bum-Bump” rattled in my chest and head. Then another “Bum-Bump”. It became louder and faster “BUM-BUMP! BUM-BUMP! BUM-BUMP!” I instantly became fixated on the loud repetitive sound. In fact, I became thrilled knowing that my heart valve flaps were working so well. (Fyi, your heart valve leaflets make the “Bum-Bump” sound in your heart as they open-and-close.)

Little did I know, my pounding heartbeat was NOT exclusive to my auditory senses.

A minute later, Robyn whispered aloud, “Oh my gawwwwsh! Is that your heart making those noises? I can hear it from over here.” She continued, “I’ve never heard anything like that.”

While we were concerned at first, we quickly rationalized that my heart was simply adjusting to the benefit of having two, new heart valves opening-and-closing like never before. Robyn said to me something like, “After having your bicuspid aortic valve replaced, I bet your heart is really, really happy!”

For this reason, I perked up in my chair this morning when I read Gail’s email. Gail writes, “Dear Adam – Your book was helpful and I thank you for it. My husband is sixty years old and seven weeks post-op yesterday with a St. Jude mechanical heart valve replacement. Okay, our question is…. There are times (more times than not) when his heart beats so hard it literally shakes him. Sort of like very small earthquake tremors. It doesn’t bother him physically. Is this normal?”

While every patient case is unique, I believe, given my experience and the experiences of other heart surgery patients I have interviewed, the pounding heartbeat issue is not unique to Gail’s husband or me. Several other patients have shared similar stories specific to loud heartbeats following cardiac surgery.

However, if you have any other thoughts or ideas, please leave a note for Gail.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • jerry

    That’s really interesting. How long did that effect last?

    I have yet to be scheduled for surgery, but now I’m thinking mid-October might make for a fun Halloween Costume, perhaps I could go as “Tell Tale Heart”.

    (It actually sounds like a pretty scary thing to have to consider after surgery, so I am glad you mentioned the possibility before hand….)

  • Keith Thomas

    Hi Gail,
    I’m guessing it’s not abnormal for your heart to beat louder and faster or harder after surgery, mine does the same thing. I am about 3 1/2 weeks post aortic valve replacement. I have an On-X valve with a repaired ascending aortic aneurysm. Fortunately my wife can’t hear it but my 13 yr old daughter can hear my new valve clicking away. We were at the dinner table one day, she was sitting across from me, gave me a strange look and said. Is that your heart I hear clicking? I had her tap the rhythm out on the table and she was right on time. I told her that it was. It bugs her a little so every chance I get I slip up next to her so she can get an ear full. We laugh about it and then go on with our business.
    It bugs me at night because I can feel my heart beating and hear the ticking. It doesn’t worry me though, I am just the type of person that can’t handle a ticking clock at night either. Also my resting heart rate pre-surgery was in the 50’s now it is in the upper 70’s and that bugs me. I am 48 yrs old and have always been athletic with a slow resting HR. I warned all the nurses about my slow HR but they got alarmed when it dropped into the mid 40’s while I was sleeping. Of course they woke me to find that I was okay. I told them I pretty much go comatose when I sleep.
    I was totally asymptomatic prior to the Docs finding my defective aortic valve and aneurysm. They found it while looking for something else after an injury.
    My Doc says it is normal for my heart to beat faster and harder and it will calm down once it realizes that it is okay from the trauma from surgery.

    I wish you and your husband all the best and pray for a speedy recovery.
    KT

  • Becca Allison

    Gail,
    I was two weeks past surgery when my heart started racing and felt like it wanted to escape! I was just sitting still at the time, though I had just drunk a half a Mountain Dew absentmindedly when my son left it on the table. I took my blood pressure and my pulse was over 150 bpm. When it had not slowed back down after 20 minutes, I went to the ER, where they hooked me up to a monitor and later did a sonogram. Everything looked fine, and the pounding, which had slowed back down to around 80, did not repeat. Doctor basically said, “These things happen.” The valve was working fine and I had no fluid around the heart.
    I’m not gonna worry about it!

  • Rodney

    I had Aortic replacement on 04/07/08, and the first thing I noticed was the clicking of the valve, especially when I opened my mouth.

    I also have had the loud, irregular pounding heartbeat, to which I still get. I was prescribed Toprolol for atrial fibliration (prob spelled wrong), at first the beating would subside to about normal within a few min of taking my daily dosage, but of late, I have the same beating and now am experiencing a sharp pain in the top right part of my heart

  • chris roxburgh

    I had heart surgery 2 months ago on my aorta and aortic valve , I can constantly feel and hear my heart , sometimes it beats so hard it feels like it wants to jump out of my chest.

  • David W

    Hi everyone,

    It’s fascinating reading about your experiences. I was diagnosed with a moderately leaky aortic valve four years ago which has been very stable since. If it hadn’t been diagnosed following an appendectomy I’m not sure I would know about it? The only symptoms to speak of are occasional mild aches in the region and vary rare bouts of dizziness that last a minute or less but seem to take a while to completely wear off?

    Can anyone relate to this? I get it checked out once a year…I am most interested in recovery times, getting back to work and life style post op?

  • Rosemary Geraci

    I experienced the same thing for several weeks. I was hospitalized again so that medication could be started to regulate my heartbeat. After a month on the medication (Cordarone), it is better.

  • Mike Hodgson

    I had my ascending aorta replaced and my bicuspid aortic valve repaired (not replaced) on 07/24/08 and I hear my heart pounding in my chest on a regular basis and it feels very strong and sometimes I swear I feel it vibrates my teeth. My heart rate has now returned to my pre-surgery rate of in the low 50s but I still hear my heart but not as often. I have gotten used to this and do not worry about it too much and it helps knowing that others are experiencing the same thing.

  • Jean Karloski

    Since my aortic valve replacement in Nov of 2008, I have been hearing my heartbeat…at first it was kinda concerning, but it is especially noticeable when it is quiet at night. It is good news to me to hear that I am not the only one who experienced this. Thank you for bringing this up. I never heard my heartbeat before surgery. Even as I am sitting writing this email, I can hear every beat.

  • Christine

    Yes I had the same experience. I had a very fast heart beat and a very strong one. I would have trouble getting to sleep as a result of this and I would feel it in my neck. After several months it subsided. No scientific explaination from the Doc’s. Chris

  • Dan Norwood

    Dear Gail:
    It’s so nice to find people on the web with these experiences. I did all the research about the actual heart surgery but did no research about how they open your chest, bend back your ribs and pull the stomach muscles.

    My wife just had aortic valve transplant on 10/30/09 and she has an OX-N. Kaiser did the surgery and did a great job but she left 18 pounds heavier after 3 days. They never told us about the blood blister on her stomach and said we were mistaken about the fluid gain. A week later she was in ER for heavy pain (the blood blister) and sent to Kaiser LA who kept her their for 12 hours then released her. My wife has no threshold on pain and has asthma and is a shallow breather. 3 days after ER she has Conjestive heart failure. I get her to the ER before any damage is done then our local Kaiser Hospital takes over and gives her lasix and she drops 8 pounds of liquids but her heart rate is eratic, not stable. 88, 90, 112, 100, up to 139 then down – it’s very volatile. Our local Kaiser is taking good care of her and watching her but she is on constant Vicadin and still breaths shallow. Kaiser will be sending a breathing maching home with us to help. From what I have been reading an erratic heart rate appears to be the heart recovering from surgery and experiencing the new valve. I was surprised because she is on a pacemeaker but apparently the heart is now having a mind of it’s own. I love to hear your comments

    Dan

  • Michael Massaro

    Since I had an Edwards tissue valve replace my native aortic valve my heart rate now at rest is 95. Prior to sugery it was 72. What has caused it to increase some 23 beats@minute. My surgery took place on May 7th 2010

  • Steve Wilson

    I am 64 years old,live in York UK, and it is now 5 months since I had an aortic valve replacement. Whilst things have been going well in recovery I have developed a very heavy pounding heartbeat whilst in bed. It wakes me on occasions. I cannot lie on either my left side or my right without an occurance of this – the heart beat is not fast or even erratic, I have no pain with it, but is very annoying. I have a metal valve and my GP thinks that he has never heard such a loud heartbeat! He thinks that the cause is mechanical and tells me not to worry. Anyone else had this trouble so late after surgery, and if so, how long did they have to wait before getting back to normal? STEVE W

  • ROBERT Hodgins

    WHILE SLEEPING i woke up to hearing my heartbeat in my left ear is this normal? I am 1 1/2 weeks post op. from an aortic valve replacement. (biological )

  • Alan Good

    I seem to not be able to sleep any more with my new mechanical aortic valve. Maybe only a hour or two.. I feel like I am in a daze all the time with no good sleep.. Any suggestions??

  • Nancee Propst

    My aortic valve replacement surgery was almost 1 1/2 years ago and I thought that the pounding heart beat had somewhat calmed down and didn’t seem quite as loud until recently. I have had a stomach virus and now the loud intense pounding is back and just as loud as just after surgery! Just wondering if anyone else has experienced this?

  • Ron Bumpus

    I am currently 3 weeks post-op, and like the rest of you I hear my heart beating like it’s trying to run away.
    I have an Edward Life Sciences Porcine valve (BIO) so the sound I hear is not the clicking of a mechanical valve. when I take a really deep breath and hold it, the sound it definitely louder than normal.

    my Cardiologist thinks I am nuts 🙂

  • Bonnie

    I am 7 weeks post-op from having a mechanical valve replacement & an anurism repair & the last 2 weeks I started feeling the pounding or racing of my heart like previous people have said. I went in for my check-up & the Dr. said that the heart is a muscle & since it had been working so hard for a long time from having a leaky aeorta valve it will take time for the heart to realize it doesn’t have to work so hard. When I take my pain meds it seems to help. I know that I cant keep taking pain meds but I need some sleep!

  • Tom Riccardi

    Hi I had an anuerysm in my aorta repaired, and my aortic valve replaced on 3/24/14. I still have the pounding heart beat, I also have some slight vision anomalies, my taste buds are shot, everything tastes horrible and my mind is not quite as sharp as before the surgery. Alot of these problems are caused by the heart/lung machine we are hooked up to.These things I found to be common from talking to other people who had similar operations and from data turned into stats by certain facilities. The time one has these anomalies is different, I still have them, other people have returned to normal; but in time all these things will pass and you will feel wonderful. Eat right, excercise and thank God each day.

  • topherCantrell

    I am 3 months out of aortic valve replacement. I hear a metallic squeak/click in my left ear. It almost sounds like metal turning on metal — like a hinge. It is very high pitch and faint, and only in my left ear.

  • gjo69

    FYi, it is hard,but you can fight it. Plenty of pillows, staying off your left side & don’t let that thing by your ear canal or a folded ear from blocking canal while lying on your side. Believe me, 4 years later, there are neutral positions. It’s up to you to find them. A glass of wine, smoke or eat Marijuana or sleeping pills can help you get to sleep. I don’t take sleeping pills and I said ONE glass of red wine!

  • topherCantrell

    It’s been 14 months since I had my aortic valve replaced. I still hear/feel my heart beating/clicking. I sleep with a box fan running for noise, and there are positions that make the sensation worse. I slept at a relative’s over the holiday where it was really quiet in the room except for an old clicking analog clock on the night stand. I spent one night trying to get my heart to sync up to the clock. Then I bought a white noise generator for travel.

  • William Jerzek

    Tom Riccardi, same issue here 10 months later. Vision analogies, strong heart sensations. Dr says it’s normal.

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