“Dizzy After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Rick

I just received a very interesting question from Rick about dizziness after heart valve surgery.

Rick writes, “Adam – On August 7, 2009, I had mitral valve repair surgery. Two weeks after surgery I am home and walking four times per day around our neighborhood. Everything feels good except when I first stand up from a sitting position.  I get dizzy even when I stand up slowly. Do other patients experience this? Thanks, Rick”

Dizzy after heart valve surgery

To answer Rick’s question, I can share that I too had bouts of dizziness after heart valve replacement surgery. The dizzy spells were very similar to how Rick described it… When standing up, I would become slightly off-balance for one or two seconds. To learn more about dizziness after open heart surgery, I did some research. According to MedHelp, “Dizziness is not a common post-operative problem in patients who have had heart valve replacements, so this problem may be unrelated to the valve surgery.”

That said, The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) suggests that “being dizzy” after heart surgery may be related to medication. The STS notes that medicines used in the hospital can cause several side effects. The STS then lists a series of side effects (shown below) which explicitly includes “dizzy or lightheaded when standing”:

  • Excessive nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Dizzy or lightheaded when standing
  • Confusion
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Extremely slow or fast pulse
  • Skin rash
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding

If you are reading this and you already had heart valve surgery, I’m curious… Did you experience any issues with dizziness following heart valve surgery? Please click here to leave a comment!

Also… You can scroll down to read over 125 comments from patients.

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.

  • greg whitner

    I had AVR three years ago this March 2, and ever since then I have been plagued by severe dizziness, and tinnitus that is, at times, un-godly. The dizziness can come and go irregardless of my activities. I also have b/p issues in that whenever I exert myself, my b/p falls through the floor; cause as yet unknown, but at least I’m still kicking and thank the Lord each and every day for the simple blessing of another day of life!

    I’ve been told by neurologist that I probably am suffering from “pump-head”, a condition caused by microscopic debris in the by-pass machine that becomes lodged in fine capillaries in the brain.
    He also told me that the subjective tinnitus I have was most likely a result of high doses of antibiotics, namely the “mycin” genre of drugs that is very damaging to the inner ear.

  • Lucy

    Adam, I didn’t find your articles until after my aortic valve replacement so I missed out on a lot of valuable information that would have me greatly.. I had my aortic valve replaced with a porcine valve in Nov, 2011. I had dizzy spells right after the surgery and still do but not as often.. I went to PT for it and did some exercises which helped some but it’s never gone away completely.. Except for the tiredness I feel OK otherwise now, just can’t figure out what’s causing the dizziness. It’s good to know I’m not the only one having this problem but would like to know what it’s coming from..

    Thanks for all the great information you provide for heart patients.

    Lucy

  • ron bailey

    i had open heart surgery 3 months ago, for replacement of my valve . I am now have bad dizzy spells , my legs hurt also. I was sitting , eating the other day and it felt like I was spinning and couldnt stop! other times when i get up, I am dizzy . Not a good feeling , lil worried after such a surgery ! Thanks

  • Carol egginton

    I had aortic valve surgery at Castle Hill Hospital,Hull .last September.Everything seemed to have gone well and I was out in 5 days.When I came home I started to have Hallucinations and dizzy spells.First my Dr said it was my painkillers and then when I came off them it was thought it was the beta blockers that was causing them.The bad hallucinations have now gone but I still get dizzy spells and shadows on right side when in car.Also my field vision has been affected.2 weeks ago my Dr sent me for a MRI scan and it has been discovered I had a stroke sometime during op.I have been told things will get better in time but probably may have more problems.At least I now know what caused all my problems and I am surprised they didn’t pick up on it earlier,Especially when I told them I could only see half the page when I was reading.

  • Jim Marcum

    Carol read Greg Whitner’s comment a few comments prior to yours about ‘pump head’. This is apparently some thoughts his cardiologist gave him concerning his dizzy spells. Well I hope you get some peace in the fact that there is and was a lot of us who had dizzy spells and vision floaters and tunnel vision after heart surgeries. Heart Surgery is major and traumatic. To place your body and organs on a blood pump for hours is traumatic to your body and organs. That is why the more surgeries you have to endure the survival rate goes down. I had two heart surgeries and pray to God I never have to have another but when you are faced with sure death than the surgery is at least a option. You have discussed these issues with your doctor and he has done the appropriate tests to discover the possible stroke. You were very lucky to have survived the surgery along with a stroke I’m sure they told you that. Since your heart was not beating and you were on a machine is why they probably never detected the stroke during surgery. Good luck to you. Read these blogs and you can see what many people have tried and how they cope with this real problem. I still get ‘swimmy’ headed at times even when I’m setting it can occur. I still work and that has concerned me about climbing and being in a bad situation and one of these spells strike a little harder. My prayers and I’m sure many others here are with you. You have done the hard part and it’s over. Now enjoy every minute of life.

  • Gail

    It’s been a year and a half since aortic valve replacement and septal myectomy. My condition has worsened. Continue to have head numbness and seemingly constant dizziness but am still able to walk without aids. I am going to pursue the idea of acupuncture and see where that takes me. If anyone has any information about this, I would appreciate a response. This numbness and dizziness seems to “prevent me from enjoying any minute of my life.” I spend absolutely too much time on the sofa (relieves dizziness of course and head numbness seems to reduce). Can’t meet new people because I know that I am never at my best. Tried antidepressants but they seemed to make dizziness worse. Advice welcomed!

  • Frank

    For another data point:

    I just had a mitral valve repair – re-repair after the first one, 2 1/2 years ago, failed. Left with moderate regurgitation and afib.

    2014 surgery was March 10. Successfully repaired valve and home in 4 days. No afib. I have been moderately active since with no incidents. March 20, 10 days after surgery, I had a dizzy spell while shopping. I was looking up at the top shelf at the time and thought that might have something to do with it. I thought I might have to sit down before I fell down. Pulse rate and strength were normal. I recovered after about 5 minutes.

    It recurred today, March 24, and was more severe. I had been grocery shopping (again) and was taking the groceries out of the cart, not looking up. I literally fell over into the candy rack in the checkout aisle. It kept me from going all the way down. And then I couldn’t stand up without holding on to something. After it didn’t go away in a few minutes I sat down. I recovered in about 10 minutes.

    In both cases “recovery” includes a few hours of feeling “a bit woozy”, but no noticeable loss of balance.

    Neither occurrence was related to any change in physical exertion (such as “standing up” from a chair or bed). In both instances, my heart rate was steady and normal, but I didn’t have the opportunity to take my blood pressure at the time(s).

    Now, an hour or so later, my blood pressure and heart rate are normal. I’ve called my surgeon’s office but haven’t heard back yet.

    I’ll follow-up when I have more.

  • Carol egginton

    Gail,Have you had a MRI scan,I
    After suffering dizzy spells for 6 months and dizziness,also tingling in hands and feet I was sent for a scan.It was found I had a small stroke sometime during or right after surgery.Unortunately Dr doesn’t know if it was a clot or a bleed so I can’t take asprin.Also my field vision has been disturbed and I have shadows on right side of vision and also suffered from hallucinations.The dizziness is getting better and also hallucinations..Like a lot on here I am frightened to go out on own and it has stopped me going out for my walks.I need exercise but a little frightened as I get dizzy and fall.Hope a lot on here will ask for a MRI scan like I did.At least it has answered the question I kept on asking Am I going mad.Carol

  • Patricia Williamson

    After eights months from having aorta valve replacement. I feel great, but I still have some dizziness. I just had my head swim one round and it was gone. What is my problem.

  • JD

    Yes. Had AVR and 1 CABG – have had BP to drop and HR to increase

  • Jim Marcum

    gail I agree with getting the scan. in general on here we are talking about brief light headedness. if you went down and it is lasting form 5 to 10 minutes sounds like something else is going on. maybe blood pressure not catching up fast enough when you looked up or could be med’s. I would doubt that your heart would be too much involved since you recover completely in several minutes. MAKE your doctor run some tests involving your circulation and blood pressure. scan for strokes. Our prayers are with you.

  • Kenneth

    Same operation and same dizzy feelings. I thought it might be the Beta Blocker medication but through trial and error I have pretty well discounted this. My thoughts are that the system that controls blood flow/pressure to the various parts of your body is in some way damaged during the operation, and so when you stand up from sitting down there is a lag before the required blood pressure in the brain is restored. I feel sure the doctors have a more elegant description. A few moments after I stand up the dizziness disappears and even fairly strenuous activity does not make it return. Perhaps if I had a spare brain in a foot the situation would be resolved!

  • David Stumpf

    I’m 52, had aortic valve replacement December 5th, 2013. I sit and stand up quickly I get dizzy and my heart rate elevates. it only lasts 4-8 seconds.
    I also notice if I exert myself like walking up stairs I get the same feeling and also have muscle fatigue in my legs.
    I am trying to get back into playing basketball and jogging. Not going well. I exert myself and i get dizzy, heart rate elevates and I’m quickly winded to the point where i have to walk.
    I can ride a stationary bike for 40 minutes at a certain pace. as soon as I increase the work load (tension), I get dizzy and winded.
    I am on Metoprolol and Coumadin. Doctor said the symptoms are from the Meds.
    Anybody else have these symptoms and does it get better???
    Thanks,David

  • JOHN

    I had aortic valve replacement in August 2013 & recovered very quickly with no meds after the first 2 weeks. Low dose statin to reduce possibility of cholesterol. No heart attacks or dizziness prior to surgery. Valve replacement was required due to birth defect & only after 74 years. My dizziness can occur at almost any time sitting, standing or walking. Have not yet discussed with family Doctor but wondered how normal this might be after surgery. The dizziness is not overly frequent but is unpredictable & quite annoying & can last from a few seconds to a minute or so.

  • Bill Clark

    David-

    My profile matches you almost perfectly. I am a 52 year old male who had Mitral valve repair surgery in 2011. Your experiences could be my experiences. I used to love to do floor hockey and run. After surgery, I really expected to be able to return to these activities but I was wrong. I get winded very easily even though my weight is close to ideal and I exercise in a boot camp class often. I find that if I can keep my heart rate/workload below max, I can go on with the best of them.

    I did experience dizziness when standing up for the first year after surgery but I no longer do. I am not sure if these problems are related. I think that the powerful anesthetics used during surgery were the cause of this dizziness. I think that the inability to exercise is due to the inability of the heart to contract like it used to.

    My doctors never really gave me a straight answer about my inability to exercise. I think that my heart just does not work as well as it should. If you have any insights, please share them with me. At this point, I think that further improvement is unlikely but would love to learn otherwise.

    Bill

  • Jim Marcum

    Metoprolol and Caumadian could cause this I’ve been told but the benefits out weigh the slight dizzy spells. my legs also feel weak at times. I can even be setting and they can start to feel weak and have a slight ache. I just had check up’s. I go to two different Cardiologists, one in Huntington, W.Va. and the other in Lexington, Ky. They both gave me the thumbs up for another year. My heart has been through two surgeries. 2005 AVR and 2013 MVR with Maze procedure for AFIB. I asked the surgeon after the surgery if I was good to go now and he just shook his head no he never gave me any explanation as far as my complications so I just guess it is from all the heart work and two surgeries I have had. Good news I read that with the 3D printer heart valves have been reproduced from the patience own cells and work is being done to create a whole heart with the 3D Printer unfortunately for many of us this will be 10 years or more down the road. take care of your hearts and watch your dizzy spells. I am thinking about retiring soon at 62 I also think I’ve been through enough for one person.

  • Carol egginton

    I had aortic valve surgery Sept 2013 and recovered very quickly.I was home 5 days after my op.On my 40mile journey home I noticed I was hallucinating and after a few days I found I was having trouble focusing while reading.I was getting shadows to my right side,trouble when reading with double vision and also hallucinating badly.I was also having dizzy turns and leg weakness.After 5 months of being told it was tablets etc my GP suggested I had a MR scan.It was then found I had a slight stroke probably during surgery..The hallucinations have gone but I do get shadows to my right when travelling.It is a good thing I don’t drive as I have had eye tests etc and have been told I can’t drive. I have been put on more and more tablets as my blood pressure has been very high and also diabetes worse..I suggest anyone with dizziness should ask for a MR scan..At least I now know what is causing my problems.

  • Ron

    I just had aorta valve replacement surgery (using tissue valve) just three weeks ago, and experience these exact same dizzy spells, always after lying prone then standing up, or bending over quickly. They pass within 5-10 seconds, but have been happening several times per day.

    Ron

  • charlene

    I had mortal valve replaced 12/2006.’Since my surgery I seem to have a lower immune system. I get cold and flu frequently. Also I have blurred vision. I can be sitting standing laying down it does matter, i get blurred vision that lasts for up to 15 minutes at times. Sometimes it just last a minute or two. Its wired because I have had it since my surgery 8 years ago and unsure what causes it. I check my blood pressure when it happens but no change and i check my heartbeat and it remains the same.doesnt happen daily and have discovered any pattern or trigger.

  • Adrian

    I had mitral valve repair 5 weeks ago. 2 weeks after surgery I blacked out and had to be rushed back to hospital. They found I had a (excuse the spelling) pericardial infusion, but claimed it was not effecting my heart function and would not be the cause, I had ct’s of my brain and chest, ECG and monitoring for 3 days. I then came home and have had constant dizziness since. I have not blacked out again but have come close many times. It’s not getting any better. I’m taking pradaxa. If things don’t improve I think I’ll be getting an MRI in search of a small blood clot.

  • David Stumpf

    I’m still getting winded, dizzy spells, and muscle fatigue(burning sensation in my legs) when climbing stairs. Actually the symptoms occur any time I put a work load on my body. Such as jogging, playing basketball, cutting fire wood and hauling brush and it’s not getting better.
    Last two days I had a heart monitor put on for 48 hours and I am anxious to find out what my heart is doing and if the heart is the cause.
    I feel great doing every day normal activities but put any work load on my body and I get winded and dizzy quickly.

  • Jim Marcum

    David the Heart Monitor should give the Cardiologist all the info he needs to determine your problem. Have they performed another echo on your heart and looked at the valves? I just wonder, you doctor knows what you need. As moral support I say just keep plugging along and don’t try to do too much. Walk is good that is basically what I do. I have a small farm but I really just take care of the mowing now I don’t do chain saw work or even weed eating because mainly of my back problems. My legs also hurt. I get like an ache in them and I can be setting with them propped up and they still ache. I have worried about deep vein thrombosis but I take blood thinners and have my blood checked it does vary though and not easy to maintain a certain INR number. My dizzy spells seem to get a little worse with fatigue and stress. At work if I add worry and stress to my work I get a lot weaker, faster and dizzy spells. the dizzy spells can come when you bend over or get up quickly. I was told that was from sudden change in blood pressure and your body’s blood pressure doesn’t stay up with the change to supply enough blood to the brain, that made sense to me a doctor told me that, I now watch how fast I rise but stooping I get dizzy or bending down so I just try to avoid those movements. we all lived on a machine for several hours of our lives and a mechanical pump supplied blood to our brains and organs. for me a total of 10 hours the two surgeries. we were all also given bunches of strong antibiotics and other meds. So to say our bodies have been through a lot would be a understatement. God don’t make no junk though and we all have survived and we will for as long as it is his will. God Bless all keep up your walking, very important, don’t worry about anything you can’t do anything about. Enjoy everyday it is a gift to us.

  • David Stumpf

    The heart monitor indicated my heart is beating properly. I’m going to be given another echo to put everyone at ease. The Doctor also took me off the Metoprolol. Hopefully being off the medication will allow me to be active without getting winded and dizzy so quickly.
    Day to day operations I feel great and hopefully I will be able to start running again.

  • Jim Marcum

    that’s great news. I hope to get the Metroprolol reduced. I take two 50’s a day and I wasn’t placed on them for blood pressure I was put on the medicine before I left the hospital. they told me my heart had developed an abnormal beat or was skipping after the surgery. my blood pressure has been historically low. the dosage was increased due to palpations but they said my heart rhythm was ok after I wore a monitor for 3 days. oh well, sorry I got of on me but that’s seems to be a good way to learn on here talk about your problems and what you know the doctors think and that helps others to understand better what they are going through or might expect. good luck to you David and all the rest of my heart brothers and sisters. We got heart.

  • David Stumpf

    Jim,
    I was placed on a monitor for a couple days and then given an ultrasound to put me at ease. Heart works the way it should.
    The Dr took me off the Metoprolol last week and I feel a little improvement. I don’t get muscle fatigue in my legs, dizzy, and shortness of breath when climbing stairs.
    However, I started to jog this week and i get fatigued easy and shortness of breath after jogging 45-60 paces. So I am walking more then jogging at this point.Jog then walk,walk and walk.Jog some paces then walk again.
    I hope to see some improvement in the next few weeks or I will lose my motivation.

  • Gary A Anderson

    I had the dizziness for some time but attributed it to a hearing loss that involves one of my inner ears.this was something that I had at first diagnosis of hearing loss.Now with my mytral valve repairedI am thinking it can be metrpolol that I have been taking pre surgery and post. (6 days).

  • Bonnie

    Yes, I had some strange experiences. the third day post-op I had a panic attack. I knew I had surgery but I didn’t remember why or how I got to the hospital. My husband helped me remember but the memory loss scared me The following week while at home I had short TIA.s. All started with my right hand getting tingly then whole arm went numb. The next day it was my arm and leg. I ended up back in hospital for observation but had no more episodes.
    I am now eight weeks post op and I still experience dizzy, lightheadedness when I stand. I do have racing heart on occasions – PACs and PVCs but not all the time. I am on Plavix and have lots of bruises. Other than that I feel great just not sure if I should go back to work just yet.

  • sue

    yep its been a year and still have them.

  • Bonnie

    Yes, I had tingling in right hand and arm that went numb for a couple of minutes. It progresses to tingly in my right leg. I had 6 episodes during the week after surgery. It was like a TIA but it wasn’t. I was admitted back in the hospital for further testing but nothing was found – must have been just debris from dead cells?

  • Sandra Layton Dill

    Its been 5 weeks since my Aortic Valve Replacement surgery(Pig tissue). I was starting to feel pretty good but once in a while I have been feeling off balanced and dizzy(not spinning). My heart starts pounding also. I am having problems being by myself and I know I start panicking. I am working from home until October, I am married and my husband has helped out . I just feel scared when I leave the house, I feel like something is going to happen. I to am on Metoprolol 25mg 2x day. I was on Nadolol(beta blocker) for 5 years and never had this problem. My heart rate is between 75-100 most of the time in the 80-90 range. When iw was on Nadolol it as always in the 60’s

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