“Did You Use A Recliner After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Kevin

I just received an email from Kevin about the use of recliners after heart valve surgery.

Kevin writes, “Hi Adam – At 58 years of age, it’s finally time to get the valve fixed. My aortic stenosis is now severe so I’m preparing for the surgery – both mentally and physically. One quick question for you… Does it make sense to use a recliner instead of regular bed during the early part of the recovery? I hear it can be pretty painful getting out of a regular bed. Thanks, Kevin”

This is a fantastic question for patients and their caregivers to consider. Plus, I give Kevin a lot of credit for proactively thinking about what happens when patients return home from the hospital. By the way, to learn more about stenotic aortic valves, click here.

 

So you know, I did not use a recliner, or La-Z-Boy chair, after my heart valve replacement surgery. However, if I ever needed another surgery, I might consider renting a recliner.

“Why?” you might be wondering.

Well, as Kevin alludes, getting in-and-out of a flat bed can be quite painful and somewhat dislocating immediately following open heart surgery. Remember… While you are in the hospital, your bed will be fully adjustable to accommodate every bend in your body. At home, no such luck.

Diagram Of Median Sternotomy
Broken Sternum – Incision Diagram (Median Sternotomy)

That said, your broken sternum will feel new types of physical pressures as you enter and exit your bed. For me, I actually began to dread the process of getting-in and getting-out of bed because of the pain.

However, as I have stressed repeatedly throughout my book and this blog, every patient recovery is unique. You may not experience the pain described above. Then again, you may.

Quick question: For all of the former heart valve surgery patients reading this, I’m curious… Did you use a recliner after heart valve surgery? What was your experience? To leave a comment, simply click here. Or, scroll down to read over 40 patient comments.

In advance, thanks for your thoughts and ideas!

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.

  • miss Bradley

    Oh my, this is very helpful. My husband and I will be speaking to the surgeon tomorrow about his aortic valve replacement. So he could go into surgery as early as Friday. I wanted to surprise him with an electric recliner but everyone was saying that was too much. Now, I’m thinking it sounds like a great gift!
    Wish us luck!
    – B

  • d shingleton

    I slept on my sofa with two pillows. and a sturdy coffee table in from to it. I would grab the back of the sofa and put my foot under the edge of the coffee table to get up. I now can turn on my left side and get up post 6wks surgery. It is painful to put try and do the same thing with my right side.

  • Paul

    Hi Adam, I did not uses a recliner, for me I found that about 6 to 8 pillows in bed gave me a nice incline to sleep on with the Pillows stacked in a pyramid vs a vee! The vee forced shoulders together which was most uncomfortable. During the day I was able to sleep in a chair with an ottoman. I found the patient video shown at Papworth hospital invaluable, it demonstrated the but shuffle for sliding down the bed/ seat and best way to stand – crossed hands over chest and lean forward then up. Practised both and never had a problem, indeed within the first month I could sleep on my side.

    Paul R. (ex-regurgitator and pround zipper club member after sterniotomy and MVR)

  • Bruce Friedman

    Yes I used it and even replaced it with an electric one

  • Charles Whitten

    I chose to use a recliner after surgery almost three years ago. I was so pleased with the ease of getting up and lying down. Be sure you chose a very comfortable one. I used it for three weeks.

    I recommend the recliner be considered.

  • Joan Davenport

    Hi All,
    I did not use a recliner when I came home. I slept in a regular bed with alot of pillows. I had a minimally invasive procedure (AVR) and had little to no pain….never took pain meds. I’m sure having the mini procedure is why I had no difficulty getting in and out of bed and thus little pain. All I remember feeling was a shifting sensation where the bones were wired closed, but it didn’t hurt….just felt odd. When I look back on my surgery, I realize how very fortunate I was compared to what alot of other people have encountered and endured.

  • Joan Davenport

    I’m back again……just wanted to add that I was also able to sleep on my side (favorite slIeeping position) even while still in the hospital. By the end of the first week at home I was climbing the stairs and sleeping in my own bed rather than a single bed brought downstairs for my temporary use. I was also able to drive at 3 weeks post op…..like I said, I was a very lucky lady and I am 73 yrs. old. I believe that the combination of an excellent surgeon and having the minimally invasive procedure was the major factor for me.
    Joan Davenport
    AVR 6/12/12

  • L. Amundson

    No, my husband did not use a recliner for sleeping; he used one during the day to watch TV. At night, we propped up the mattress with a foam wedge (from Bed Bath & Beyond) and a couple of pillows to allow him to get in and out easier; he wanted to be in his own bed and bedding rather than a chair. The wedge and pillows allowed us-over time- to reduce the elevation of the head portion until he was able to sleep again flat… I am guessing after about 3 weeks. Hope this helps.

  • Ken Czerwiski

    Recliner is a must – I just felt far more comfortable than laying totally flat in a bed!
    And yes, much easier to get in and out of than a bed.
    As I recall I used the recliner for a month or so and would not go it again without it!

    Ken

  • Rosie

    Absolutely could not have managed without it – moved one into our bedroom before surgery and used it for at least 2 months – it actually felt strange returning to our bed and laying flat – pillows do not seem to work for me except under my neck.
    I would strongly suggest using one if possible, unless you like moving pillows around all the time!

  • Janet Coyle

    As Adam said, everyone’s experience is unique I did not have sternum pain getting in out of bed , but did find sleeping in a recliner more comfortable when I first got home. Most pain I experienced was actually back pain and shifting position in a was much easier in a recliner than trying to it flat on a bed. The good news is that every day gets better. Good luck. Our prayers are with you !

  • Charlie Messineo

    Today is 4 weeks since aortic valve replacement with stenosis, regurgitation & an aneurysm. My wife told me to purchase a recliner before surgery and we were prepared to have a lift chair if necessary. Today after 4 weeks I am still sleeping in it…my bed is not comfortable at all. We just have the one that has the handle not the electric and it works GREAT! Don’t know what I would have done without it. Pillows propped up didn’t cut it for me in bed. Miss sleeping with my sweetie, Julia. Buy the recliner!

    Charlie M

  • David Martin

    I definitely used a recliner with an electric lift feature. Without it, life would have been much more painful. I had a hospital-bed table that I had modified to swivel over the chair so I could use my computer to entertain myself and felt like I had a little “nest” that I spent considerable time in. I also slept in the chair for a couple months, which was a huge blessing if I had to get up in the night to go to the bathroom. The only problem I had was dry mouth from breathing through my mouth because I had to sleep on my back, but that would also have been a problem if I were sleeping in a bed. We found a good chair at an excellent price at Costco; it ended up being cheaper than renting (if you include rent, delivery, and setup charges), and now we have the chair to use or to sell if we wish.

  • Laura Arwood

    For the first four weeks after aortic valve replacement in April 2012, I used a hospital bed borrowed from my sister then switched to a recliner because the plastic hospital bed mattress and my new and improved circulation made it too hot to sleep. My two cats adjusted just fine to the new regime. One sleeps on the back of the chair at my head, the other on the footrest between my feet.

    Anyone interested in a hospital bed whose insurance/doc doesn’t cover might want to check CraigsList. That’s how I sold my sister’s bed (Medline Full Electric Hospital Bed Model MDR107003L) and mine wasn’t the only one listed.

    Best of luck, Kevin!

  • David Belisle

    Hi Adam,
    Yes, I used a recliner after my aortic valve replacement. It was much easier to just lean forward to stand,rather than to roll over on my side and slide out of bed on to my knees. When I slept in my bed I used a full length body pillow to lay up against and a regular pillow on the other side. Kind of like a cradle. It really seemed to help.
    Thanks for the great work Adam, and keep the blogs coming!
    David Belisle
    3 year aortic valve replacement survivor

  • Ken

    I bought a motorized recliner especially for the situation a month before my AVR. Too bad it isn’t a “lift” chair that gets you on your feet. I’m 3 weeks out of AVR and still use the recliner for good parts of they day, even tho getting out of bed is not longer a problem.

  • Lynda Knopf BS/RN

    Both my husband and I highly recommend the use of an electric recliner chair not only for post operative recuperation, but, also for malaise,back discomforts etc–the recliner situates the user, whether young or elderly, into fine bodily alignment needed for adequate good blood circulation, breathing oxygenation and discomfort/pain relief. We have purchased a couple of Berkliner(electric operated)lounge chairs over the last twenty years and we are EXTREMELY SATISFIED!! My husband and I are retired medical professionals i.e.physician and nurse,who have expertienced open heart surgeries…I hope this comment is both helpful and educational! With deep appreciation in receiving Adam’s frequent cardiothoracic surgery updates, Lynda Knopf,BS/RN

  • Juliann

    I had heard about people needing a recliner after surgery so we bought a reclining couch. I absolutely need it for the first couple of months. Towards the end of the 2 months it wasn’t the pain from laying down but rather the pressure on my lungs. I did have problems with a partial collapsed lung from the surgery. I was very glad we had it.

  • Diane macDonald

    Great question. I went out and bought a fancy leather recliner, Queensland timber framed, electric controlled. I did not sleep in it at night, just for rest during the day. . I loved it for the first 10 days after the mitral valve surgery then I found it so slow and by then I was moving faster. I thought of selling it but my husband and 3 year old grandson love it!
    I love this work Adam does and have found it so supportive. Have even told my wonderful surgeon how gret it is . Thanks so much.

  • Martha

    I slept in an electric reclining chair for a month after my aortic valve replacement. I tried a foam wedge pillow in my regular bed, but even with that it was excruciating to get in and out of bed. The chair was a lifesaver!

  • Al Dobshinsky

    At 55 years old, I used my recliner daily but slept on my regular bed at night. I found getting out of bed a challenge but I was using my stomach muscles as a sort of rehab. I recovered very quickly and am now enjoying an active lifestyle even though my surgery was August 27.

  • Marion

    I had an valve replacement and bypass in 2010 and my after-care instructions from the hospital doctors said I must quite definitely not use a recliner. Their reasoning was that to operate the up down movement would pull on my scar whatever mechanism the chair had. I didn’t have a recliner at the time but after a couple of weeks of not being comfortable sitting in an ordinary chair we went out and bought one. Best thing I ever did and I use it daily now. The comfort was instant although I have to admit that the warnings were paramount in my mind and my husband made sure he operated the raising and lowering of the foot rest in the early days.

  • Sheila Lindal

    Adam,
    My name is Sheila and I had mitral valve repair surgery on Nov. 23, 2009. I tried using my own bed for a while but when I started using a recliner (on loan from the Canadian Red Cross) I noticed such an improvement and comfort getting in an out of it as the one I used was a power chair that, at a press of a button, it changed positions for a recline to standing. So, YES, I would highly recommend heart valve surgery patients newly home from the hospital to access a community PHYSIOTHERAPIST to help you get a recliner for sleeping and general sitting…made my recovery and life go much smoother, more comfortable, and NO DREAD feelings about getting in and out of bed! A very good thing.
    Hope this is helpful. Sheila

  • Rukhsana

    I had my mitral valve replacement in Islamabad last year . The hospital the care with the whole system was excellent. Didn’t use a recliner nor thought of one. Those early days were difficult . My children had to raise me up from the sofa I was sleeping . Also to make me walk. Had recovered quickly and was onmy feet in few days. Am doing well after the whole procedure up till now. The INR checking once a week tells me for the dose . This site on the face book about the heart valve operation is a guide and help to me . My doctors , hospital and everyone else are very helpful other wise very careful considerate. Have no major problems and am almost as active as before. Grateful to god and my doctors who did their best on me

  • Ken Marschall

    Yes, after my 2008 aortic valve replacement at the USC
    Medical Center (Dr. Vaughn Starnes) I slept in my Lazy-Boy
    every night for the first 2 weeks after my return home.
    My bed was too painful to sleep on. Gradually I start using the
    bed mixed with the recliner.

  • john washko

    Adam, following your books suggestion, following my AVR last March, I used a recliner when returning home. I can’t imagine what it would have been like without it. Without my total body flat and shoulders back, as in a bed, I could adjust the recliner to get comfortable to sleep. Also, it made it much easier to get up. I used the recliner for weeks and then started to transition into a bed. It was still rough, lying flat on my back and getting out of bed, but I gradually could sleep in bed for extended time, day by day, until it finally became possible for a full night. Thanks for that tremendous suggestion. John

  • Dale

    I had aortic valve replacement and aortic grafting surgery in 2009. I didn’t use a recliner, but I would definitely rent one if I had to do it again. I think that, if you have someone around to help you get in and out of bed, it might not be such a big deal, but even with someone to help me, it was difficult. I can’t imagine going through that without a recliner if I’d been on my own.

  • Rhonda Wilson

    I am 9 days post heart valve replacement surgery. I can’t tell you how much easier and more comfortable it is to use a recliner. I tried the bed a couple of times once with a wedge pillow once with just regular propped up pillows. But neither of those were comfortable for me at all in the bed. I will say the hardest part of a recliner is that since we are not supposed to pull, push, lift I could not even do the recliner if it was not for my husband. So even if it’s just renting one for a month or so, I’d recommend getting a power lift recliner if you can.

    Hope this helps!

  • Rukhsana

    I hesitated to ask lots of questions from my surgeon and the physician before my mvr last dec.in Kulsum hospital Islamabad.Was scared to death but knew had no way other then getting over with it. Had to listen my physician Doctor Iqbal. Was quite uncomfortable to meet the surgeon doctor Farid ullah. It went very smooth and quick more then expected. The hospital was excellent. My doctors were amazing with their staff. Am learning a lot from this site. The diagram is scary that what actually I went through. My surgeon has appreciated my behaviour that I was not scared and was more then normal. Am strong and becoming normal and fit . I am getting a lot of depression with certain family issues.Other then that all has taught me a lot . The greed imaginations plannings for many things in life has vanished.Cannot predict how long it stays but will be grateful if it remains for ever. Cannot resist to take a lot of interest on the emails from the poor patients like myself. Everyone here seem to be fully prepared and with full strength. It is a matter of few days and some weeks.I started driving exactly on the sixth week .God bless every one of us

  • Rick Holan

    Hi Adam, I had my valve surgery two years ago this coming October 12th. I didn’t use a recliner. I just figured out how to roll in and out of bed. I used a weg pillow to keep me from laying completely flat for the first 5 weeks. I enjoy your blog keep it up.
    Rick Holan

  • Tom Haynie

    I borrowed a recliner from my son for about six weeks following my AVR surgery. I soon learned to roll on my side and out of bed to minimize the sternal pain, but I slept better (if you call that sleeping!) in a recliner because I could breath easier than lying flat in bed. I suggest you have a recliner ready when you come home from the hospital, then try all of the options you have available to you and use what works best for you. Even with a recliner, I had my wife give me a hand up which reduced the pain substantially. Lots of smaller pillows will help you adjust to either a bed or a recliner. Hang in there and know that you are not the first to deal with these challenges.

  • Archana

    After my valve replacement surgery, sleeping was the most painful thing I did. Many nights, I’d wake up in a tremendous amount of pain and my recliner was the only saving grace I had, despite a very loving family. It was also great during the day when I wanted to feel like a real person who wasn’t stuck in bed all day, but realistically should’ve been in bed.

  • Pamela

    I did use a recliner to sleep in and did so for 4 months after I was released from the hospital. I tried a few times to sleep in the bed but would have to get out after just a few moments. The recliner was my new best friend and I was so glad that I happened to have two of them so I could have one in my bedroom and one in my frontroom.

  • diane

    I just ordered a POWER LIFT RECLINER from sears catalogue in Canada.
    IT costs $1099 dollars$ plus tax plus 80 DOLLARS delivery. THIS is my gift to me for having to go through this upcoming operation. I KNOW this is a good investment since my aging mother and I live together. WE will make good use of it in the next few years. Sharing it after I have recuperated from the surgery will be fun. SO I am so thankful to hear about how everyone who did use the recliner felt it was worth getting one.
    Now hopefully, the motor on the Power lift will last more than 3 years. Everything today seems to be built to last three years these days, IF you know what I mean.

  • Charles Whitten

    I used a recliner for some 3 weeks and found that it worked very well for me.

  • Chris Kline

    After reading about the benefits of a recliner, I rented an electric lift recliner for the first month home from the hospital after aortic valve replacement surgery. It was great and well worth the $400 ($235 per month plus delivery and pick-up charges).
    I slept in it at night for the first two weeks because I found it extremely painful to get in and out of bed, even following the physiotherapist instructions. My back was sore from having fluid removed from my lungs and that may have contributed to the pain.
    During the day the electric lift recliner provided a comfortable place for me to sit and read or watch TV–something that you do a lot of initially. It was easy to adjust with the push of a button, thus giving me a range of sitting and sleeping options depending on how sore I was, what I needed, or what I was doing. Sometimes, when it was really painful for me to get up, I could use the lift feature to lift me gradually to a standing position. After two weeks I was able to sleep in my bed with a wedge pillow and that is working out fine–although it still hurt to get in and out of bed. But it was still great for me to use during the day.

  • PureTexan47

    I am 47 yrs. old and had mitral valve repair surgery 13 days ago. I spent most of my time in the recliner after I came home from the hospital. Laying in the bed was too uncomfortable for me because of the pressure on my chest. I avoided the problems of having to recline the recliner by leaving the foot rest up all of the time. It was a lot easier for me to get it and out of the recliner that way, than to have to recline it. It was definitely a life saver!

  • Rukhsana

    I did not think of getting any such thing. Would sleep on the couch during the day. Would sleep for the night on the bed. It was very difficult to get up. My children were there to help me. Those were days to remember but most important I was up on my feet quite soon.

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