“Did Your Heart Pound Like Crazy After Valve Surgery?” Asks Josh

Josh just asked me an important, post-operative question about elevated heartbeat sensations after heart valve surgery and aneurysm repair. I responded below but, if you are a former patient, maybe you can help Josh by leaving a comment as well? Here is what he writes:

Animation Of Pumping & Contracting Heart

“Adam: I do have one question about something that is bothering me.  I’ve tried to do some research on the web about this, but haven’t really found anything.  After surgery, all the medical personnel involved had said that I’d be more ‘aware’ of my heart beating after aortic valve replacement and aneurysm repair.  That is, due to the fact that since my pericardium would be cut for surgery, I’d lack the ‘insulation’ it provides. Boy were they right!  Sometimes I feel like my heart is pounding out of my chest. When I’m laying down on my sides or stomach in bed, I hear my heart beating through the pillow louder than ever.  And here’s the kicker – when I’m in a sitting position (driving, watching TV, at the computer, etc.) and I inhale deeply, it seems like I feel my heart literally banging against my upper chest/throat area. When I exhale, it seems to go back to normal; or the “new” normal anyway.  I was curious as to whether you or anyone else on the blog has felt a similar sensation. Thanks Josh!”

So you know, I had the exact same experience that Josh describes above. How about you? Did you experience a loud and pounding heartbeat after heart valve surgery? To leave a comment, please click here.

If you scroll down, you will find over 130 responses to this post.

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.

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  • Tom

    I had no swelling …had some popping in the rib cage for awhile but that has subsided ,thankfully…but I know what you mean about the pounding , hard to describe to some one who hasn’t experienced it….. I used metropolol to slow down the rapid & loud pounding ,a small dosage & it worked great within a few minutes …if they haven’t given you that med,it may be worth asking your doctor

  • janet

    after i had my bovine replacement, i too noticed i had a lot of heart palpatations. can anyone tell me why. also, i am so worried my bovine replacement is going to fail. what can you tell me about this. i am worried everyday that it will fail. how will i know it is failing? i am 65 years old. i am so worried. i never had the palpations until i got my cow valve. anyone?

  • Barbara

    I had a bovine replacement on 4/3/2012, at 68 1/2 years old. After that I had a lot of heart palpitations and a heart rate of 95+. I also worried about the valve failing. A couple months after the surgery, I had a heart block and my dr took me off the Lopressor I was put on by the surgeon. In October, I had another heart block and had a pacemaker put in. In January, I had a parathyroid tumor removed. I don’t know if the parathyroid caused any of the problems and can’t be bothered worrying about it anymore. I live in Florida and it is hot and humid during the summer. This spring, I decided to put in a stone walk and to build some stone walls to terrace a hilly area of my property. My dr only told me to be careful not to deplete my electrolytes. I drink coconut water or g2, etc. When my body has had enough, it tells me! Usually, I stop right away. Soon I will be 70. The heart no longer pounds, my heart rate is down to the low 70s (normal for me) and my blood pressure is usually around 118/78. The stone work is done. I play golf and now play about as well as I ever did. I am enjoying my life and appreciate almost every day. We received a gift. Look at it that way and stop worrying. I have heard of people walking around with tissue valves that were put in 25 years ago. If I last another 25 years….wahoo! Should the valve need to be replaced, they are doing them through the artery now and will have that pretty much perfected before this valve goes bad (hopefully). Just think of how lucky we are. When you stop worrying and go on with your life, the heart will calm down. My dr said it would take 6 months to 2 years for it to calm down. When he told me about the electrolytes, he said ‘anyone with a heart condition……’ . I looked at him in surprise….Heart condition? Me? Oh…..yeah, I can see where he thinks that. Take that attitude and stop worrying, you are going to be fine for a long time. We are so lucky!

  • jreiff

    thank you for responding. I try not to worry, but it is something that is always on my mind. I can’t stand the heat at all, like now, in ohio, we have been in almost the 90’s for the past 2 weeks. it is worse than in the heat of the summer.
    I get dehyrated all the time, I ‘m so glad you told me about that. I will try and drink more gatorade. that would never have occurred to me. thank you for responding. you have a good outlook on life. if I have half of what you have I will be good. thank you

  • jerry

    i was told nothing and the beating hard and loud noises in my chest is worst now at 7 months down the road. help-i need a good lawyer!!!

  • Randi

    I am 4 years post valve sparing aortic root to arch replacement and it’s the same as day one… Like someone said above, I hear it beating in my pillow. My husband can hear it when we are going to sleep. I count my own pulse. I can hear my heart beats echoing off the bathroom stalls in restrooms. My babies sleep soundly on my chest. (Which is a plus!) Tons more examples but I’ll leave it at that!

  • rose filice

    Thanks Randi- as I type here with my head bobbing to the beat of my heart thumping against my chest, I know just what you are talking about. Coping some days is tough.Thank you for sharing! I have found some peace of mind with an ipod in my ears to help when I am doing routine tasks and feel disturbed.Yoga breathing when the irritation level is too much.

  • Dan

    Hi Everyone. The last time I posted I was 4 weeks out. Now I am 16 weeks out. My surgeon is still convinced the pounding heartbeats on inspiration may decrease in intensity over time. My cardiologist had thought it may have been pericarditis until he did the ultrasound.

    I have found that I have good days and bad days. When I have had the perfect night’s sleep, perfect diet, and not much stress, the heart pounding sensation is decreased slightly. If not, then fatigue really hits me hard and the pounding seems worse than ever.

    Overall, in the past 12 weeks since my last post, I feel the sensation has gone down about 15%. It is not enough to be a dramatic change but it is enough to be noticeably better.

  • Andrew Pearson

    Hello, I am about 18 months post op from a Bengal procedure and aortic valve replacement. I have the harsh, pounding heartbeat mentioned by so many others, and recently have been suffering from lack of sleep and double heartbeats. I am very relieved to read that so many others have the same experience, but I am not sure how to address the sleep issue. I can barely function at work. I just got a cpap machine for apnea, and I really cannot sleep with the machine very well. My theory was that lack of oxygen was causing the arrhythmias and so I tried to fix the apnea. I am at a loss for how to get help so I am going to go back to my cardiologist for ideas. If anyone has had success addressing sleep issues with irregular beats, I could use some advice! Thanks

  • Rose

    My husband recently had an aortic valve replacement and we have noticed that his carotid artery seems “ballooned” and visibly pulses with each heartbeat. Has anyone else had this problem and what were your experiences with it… Thank you

  • Tom

    I have posted before, it has been two years since my aortic aneurysm & aortic valve surgery…. after surgery my heart rate got up to 120 bpm, very noticeable & troubling. It would happen at night and awaken me, what made it really unusual is I could not get it to slow down until I took a small dose of metropolol….I told my cardiologist about the experiences and he said to me that your heart is a muscle and it will take time to heal , also he mentioned that the the pericardium membrane that insulated the heartbeat noise before the surgery was cut and the insulating effect was gone which made the beats seem louder ..this wasn’t too comforting but I believed him & except for an occasional episode the pounding has subsided.
    I read another posting about sleep apnea causing the problem of rapid heart rate which I also investigated but was advised that if I had not had that problem before it was unlikely to occur after the surgery or at least there wasn’t anything about the surgery that would cause that to start….

  • Tim

    This is my first post. At age 40 I had my 66% back flowing Mitral Valve repaired thru the sternum at the Mayo in 2005. I could not sleep the entire first week of recovery in their hospital and temporarily lost over 20 pounds. Their doctors said the repair could last another 40 years. I am so happy they could repair it and not replace it so I don’t need blood thinner maintenance. My home town doctor performs an echocardiogram every 2 years now. So far, the repair has not leaked. Before the surgery I could not walk up a flight of stairs but now I am able to exercise at a reduced level due to only having one functioning leaflet. Now, I am careful to listen to my body because I fear that over exercise is what caused that valve’s cords to fail in the first place. I remember a short pain in my heart and extreme shortness of breath after running at home only a few months before discovering that I had a bad murmur that sounded like lub-shh. I have experienced some of the same post op loud beating symptoms that have been reported in other posts. I am careful to take antibiotics before all dental visits. Good dental habits are very important for all heart valve patients. I am sorry to say that my retired aunt had 2 heart valves replaced with mechanical valves but after only 10 years of Warfarin use she lost her last of many battles with internal bleeding.

  • mary duffy

    I too had surgery on my heart which has left me with a thumping sound in my chest which seems to go up to my throat. I cant get used to it especial at night when i am trying to sleep. Its with me all the time and I joke with my husband that I wish it would stop but I know if it did I wouldn’t be here

  • Tim

    I began walking and jogging within six months after my Mitral valve repair. The exercise slowed my resting heart rate and quieted the loud beating sounds from my chest. I have gone and beaten normal runners in 5K races to regain my self confidence. I no longer feel the need to race because that has allowed me to quit worrying about my heart beating every moment. My left atrium had been stretched out from my prolapsed valve and I was told that was likely permanent. However, after 5 years or more I am also happy to report that my atrium has returned to its normal size.

  • Stephanie

    Hi everyone!

    I am a 19 year old cardiac patient, only 3 weeks post-op after valve
    replacement surgery for bicuspic aortic valve stenosis.
    This pounding sensation has significantly increased after surgery and caused
    a great deal of anxiety. Although i have read countless posts on this
    page, (which have been very helpful), I still wonder if i should be concerned
    and possibly speak to my cardiologist.

    Has anyone else spoken with a medical professional about this and
    if so, what did they say?

    Im really glad I came across this page, very comforting to know that
    so many people are experiencing the same symptoms. Hope everyone
    is doing well.

  • Tom

    Stephanie,

    I was thankful to come across this website as I had exactly the same problem that you describe. I had a bicuspid aortic valve & aorta aneurysm surgically repaired and the pounding ,especially at night , would wake me up & wouldn’t stop. I took a small dose of metropolol which worked very well. I did ask my cardiologist about the pounding & he replied that a heart is a muscle & takes time to heal but other than that there was nothing he suggested . After several months, the pounding did subside. My only other problem was some intense pain thru my upper chest & shoulders, it lasted several minutes but that too has pretty much stopped. Hang in there……

  • Tom Riccardi

    HI Stephanie

    I am 7 weeks out of open heart for aortic anuerysm repair and aortic valve replacement. My heart beats so hard and loud it is quite disturbing. I have asked the cardiac surgeon, my cardiologist and my GP about it; they all say the same thing… it should go away in time. Im almost 2 months with this now, other people have thankfully had it subside faster. I hope this helps as well…. God Bless

    Tom

  • Barb

    It did take quite a while for me, but I don’t even think about it anymore. My heart rate and blood pressure are back to normal pretty much for me. I do feel like I am retaining water or I am just gaining more weight. The weight has been a problem for me. After my valve replacement, I had a parathyroid tumor which had to be removed. After that, my thyroid decided not to work as it had done before and I ended up on thyroid medication. That is all I am on. However, the weight is very worrysome to me and I feel tired and bloated all the time. I am sure your pounding heart will calm down in some time. My dr told me it would take 6 months to 2 years for my heart to settle down. It has now been 2 years.

  • Dan

    Stephanie, I am a doctor as well as patient. Depending on the extent of your procedure, the pounding/tapping sensations may dissipate over time. For some people, it takes a few months. For others, it may tale a couple of years. For some, it may never totally go away. I am almost 11 months post-op. This was my 3rd go-around. I was 29 when I had my first operation. I am now 47. I have 2 different sensations. the first is a noticeable stronger heartbeat. The second is a thumping behind the sternum upon taking a deep breath or in certain positions. It can be maddening at times. In the early stages, there is no shame in using medications to mitigate the physical and psychological effects. Ultimately, you have to get reassurance from your doctors and from within yourself that your life-threatening heart issue has been repaired. Your valve should last for a long time. Know that when it is time to change your valve, many years from now, there will be greater advancements in medicine that will help you to continue on for a very long time. Life is full of ups and downs. This is a very tough time for you and everyone else here. But I’m sure everyone here has a greater understanding of and appreciation for life than most people. Be comforted with the knowledge that you are not alone. For now, rest and heal. Then, go out there and enjoy your life.

  • marina

    Hi iv just had open heart surgery and im experiencing the same feeling its a bit concerning at times as I wasn’t told it would be like this but I certainly know I have a heart now

  • Will

    Hey everyone, It’s comforting to see i\’m not the only one who has gone threw this. April 17, 2014 was my date, passed with flying colors. I have the pounding in my upper chest when I deep breath in, sometimes feel a strong pulse in my neck. Sometimes I get a very strong tingly sensation in my left breast area last’s maybe about a min “no I don’t have man boobs” lol. My other concern is, at any given time my inside bicep right of left arm, either the nerve or artery goes numb with a 10 for pain and tracks down to my forearm , but goes away after a few mints. Oh another thing my chest seems to sag can i tone it back up? . Any thoughts? Thanks everyone and good luck!

  • Tom

    Marina,
    I am not sure i would have been prepared any better for the heart pounding if I had been told. I had open heart surgery 2 1/2 years ago and after 6 months or so the pounding lessened, although it has not stopped entirely. My cardiologist prescribed metropolol ,a small dosage, and, all I can say, it work almost immediately whenever the pounding started. I still use it occasionally . I asked my doctor about the pounding & all he could tell me is that my heart is a muscle and it takes time for muscles to heal especially after the “trauma” of open heart surgery. That made sense to me. I just waited for the healing to occur,used the metropolol when necessary and things have calmed down a lot…………. good luck

  • mary

    Im glad I was not the only one to have had these symptoms as I thought it was just me that had this loud heart beat after heart surgery.I only wish that someone had give me some idea of what I was to experience, but no one did not even the surgeon
    At first I thought the noise would last for just a week or so but after nearly six months its still here. I dont think it will ever go away. I try to get used to it but it is annoying at times. My husbands reply to my worry was to say well, if you don’t hear it then its time to worry.
    So I suppose I will have to put up with it…

  • Tim

    My aortic valve replacement was 8 months ago and the pounding seems worse. I was hoping that it would subside. I’m still holding out for the one year mark which others have suggested might be a time when it will seem different. This was my second valve replacement. The first was a tissue valve and it was smooth and quiet until it began leaking at 11 years. I had it replaced with a St Jude mechanical valve along with a root replacement, aortic graft, etc. There is a lot of controversy about which valve type increases one’s longevity when you’re in your 40s or 50s.

    When the thumping gets bad, it actually hurts like something is gnawing at my sternum from the inside. Does anyone else have pain with the noise and vibration? Anybody who felt better after a year but not so good up until that point?

  • Brian

    Wow. We all sound the same! Aortic valve (artificial, St. JUDE model). 9/11/12 @ Brigham and Womens in Boston. Same symptoms and feelings/sensations. When it’s quiet I sound like a clock. At night I use a sound machine on the rain storm setting. I’ve gotten very used to everything written here. It takes time and relaxation techniques. Good luck and best of health to all if us!

  • Tim

    Thanks Brian. It feels “so wrong” and abnormal sometimes that its hard to believe its doing its job.
    Tim

  • Matthew

    I could not have described it any better myself. Especially the breathing in part exactly what happens to me.

  • Cynthia

    Hi, I just want to thank you all for your comments on this matter. I am seven weeks post-op for an ascending aortic root and valve replacement which, while not an emergency procedure, was diagnosed and operated on in a three week time span after a routine echocardiogram for a well functioning bi-cuspid aortic valve. So, quite the shock to learn I needed immediate surgery. For the last two weeks have I had this maddening strong heartbeat. Like others, mine is noticeably bigger when breathing in, you can place your hand on my chest and feel the difference! I quit taking metroprolol three weeks ago and now that I have read these posts suspect that is contributing to the feeling. But, I hated the beta blockers so will need to discuss trade-offs with my doctor. Like many, my cardiologist had not heard of the issue so I was planning to call the heart surgeon; so thanks for calming my concerns!

  • Tom Riccardi

    Cynthia

    I had the same procedure you did, I stopped taking metroprolol (toprol) after 3 months because I too hated the beta blocker and it negatively affected my taste buds. I am now 4+ months out of surgery and the pounding is there, sometimes really bad, sometimes not so bad. I think after all the data I could gather, this eventually goes away. My thought is that its going to be a year.. this surgery and recovery is certainly not fun and its not for the timid. But hang in there and if your gut and body tell you not to take a drug that you dont really need, dont take it. Excercise is really important, do as much as your body will allow… I have pushed myself very hard and it is paying off in spades. God Bless and stay tough Tom

  • Tim

    Josh,

    I’m 10 months from my surgery which was a redo aortic valve replacement (mechanical valve for my prior pig valve) with root replacement and grafting of aortic arch. I too have crazy pounding that follows the pattern you described, worse with inhalation, worse with laying on my side (especially the left). Do you have a mechanical valve? Was this your first operation? How long ago was your surgery?

    My research and thinking on this over the last 10 months, suggests this is related to the valve in a conduit (Dacron replacement of the first part of the aorta). I had nothing like this after my first surgery. Sometimes it feels so strong that I am convinced this is the end, my heart will explode. Every day that passes, makes this seem less a concern. It does help me to share with others with the same issues so thank you for your post.

    Tim

  • Michael

    Bentall 4 months ago. I can hear beating very clearly as well as clicking (valve). I get the same sensation you describe when I inhale heavily. My cardiologist says it’s normal.

    I was getting ready to go for a walk with my wife when she asked me if my iPod was already on. I looked puzzled and told her, ‘no.’ She responded, ‘but I can hear the beat.’ I smiled and told her that was just my heart.

  • Windy

    I am 5 weeks post op and came here looking for answers about my clicking/heartbeat when inhaling deeply. seems to ne very common so I am now less concerned. I still get short of breath, I can walk for about 10 minutes in the Florida heat but the full 30 minyes on a treadmill however this causes severe pain. Slow and Steady I guess.

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    I have to have open heart surgery in two months. I have an aneurism in my aorta and have to have valves replaced with mechanical ones. I’m 60 now and have had a mostly vegan diet with meat mainly when I’m out at a restaurant. How long will it be before I am up and getting around like normal. I refuse to take medication as they made me dizzy and have falls. My Cardiologist says I will have to take a blood thinner after this. If I cannot live a normal life after this I’d rather not live at all. can anyone put some light on this for me please.

  • Werner

    Rhonda, I’m 67 and had open heart surgery. New aorta and aortic valve.
    3 months now since my surgery, and I was re-trained to drive School buses again. I passed my final road test and am now back at work. First two months were hard because I lacked energy to do anything. But now I’m pretty much back to normal. I can’ once more lift 40 lbs. of water softener salt. And I can do my 50 pushups again. I also quit doing drugs after I left the hospital.
    I rely on my many supplements to help with blood pressure control.

  • http://www.HeartValveSurgery.com/ Adam

    Werner,

    Great to hear you are back at work doing 50 push-ups and water softener salt! :)

    Keep on tickin!
    Adam

    P.S. Who was your surgeon?

  • Werner

    Jeffrey Schwartz, M.D. at Loyola, Maywood, IL near Chicago.
    It only took him two hours to replace my aortic valve and my aorta.

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Thanks Werner, I am on a healthy vegan diet, green smoothies, raw nuts, sprouted legumes, raw and cooked food eg hummus with raw veg and sprouted legume stews and soups also pollen and aloe vera for vitamins. I will probably take hawthorn for the blood thinner afterwards as the specialist said I will have to use a blood thinner after with the mechanical valves. I see the surgeon on 9 September and go from there. Thanks again for your input. Do you use anything to thin your blood?

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    My surgeon will be Dr Wall hope he is good at Prince Charles Hospital in Chermside, Qld, Australia. Does anyone know of him?

  • Werner

    Anyway, I use CoQ10, magnesium and fish oil, plus White Willow bark extract for thinning blood. Even though I have a bovine valve, I take these supplements to keep my blood flowing and for general heart health. I also take garlic and hawthorn for keeping my blood pressure normal.

  • http://www.HeartValveSurgery.com/ Adam

    Hi Rhonda, I have not heard of Dr. Wall. Maybe if go over to our community and start a journal, you might learn something from our former patients from Australia? Adam

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Thanks Adam

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Thanks for that Werner. Is the bovine valve a mechanical one Werner? Thanks for all your input Werner your story is the most positive one I have heard so far.. :D

  • Werner

    Bovine in not a mechanical valve, so I don’t really need coumadin (blood thinner drug). It is made from the pericardium of a cow and is treated to the point of being leather. The surgeon told me that it’s good for at least 20 years or more. Being 67, that would put me at around 90 or beyond.

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    I think I’ll ask if I can have the Bovine valve too it sounds much better. Do you get the heavy beating of your heart or is yours pretty normal. I get the feeling that it may be the meds that cause that feeling that the heart is in the throat and beating really hard and loud. Also did they replace your whole aorta? Mine is blown out where it comes into the lung and I think that it will be taped up somehow..

  • Werner

    The heavy beating of the heart is caused by the surgeon leaving the pericardium open to prevent fluid from building up around the heart and choking it. I think that eventually it will heal and close up and build some fluid back up, which will act as a shock absorber and quiet the heart beat. I’m at 3 1/2 months post surgery and the heavy beating is not that bad anymore. I still notice it once in awhile, but I can live with it and I’m sure it’ll go away eventually. Yes, they replaced my aorta from the base of the heart to my aortic arch. My new aorta is a synthetic material … Dacron, like goretex. The surgeon gave me a sample piece which I can show to people. The bovine valve, I downloaded a picture of it, which is on my cellphone and I can show it to people.
    If you have an aneurysm in your veins or arteries, they will replace it … it’s much safer and will last forever.

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Thanks Werner for answering my personal questions. It gives me insite as to what to ask the surgeon.

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Adam could you please tell me how I look up surgeons on this site to see if my one is good or not?

  • http://www.HeartValveSurgery.com/ Adam

    Click the tab marked “Surgeon Finder” and then search by country. So you know, the only surgeons in this directory are patient-recommended — so, it does not contain all of the surgeons in the world. Just those that patients from our community have recommended. Here’s the link to the directory:

    http://www.heart-valve-surgery.com/surgeon-database/home.php

    I hope this helps!
    Adam

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Thanks Adam

  • Rhonda Summerfield

    Good morning, I have to meet the surgeon on the 9th Sep and am freaking out about the cannular as I have bad veins and no one has heard of Dr Wall. Keep smiling :D

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