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

Posted by Adam Pick on September 19th, 2009

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 A dad, a husband and a patient, Adam Pick founded this website in 2006 to educate you about heart valve surgery from diagnosis to recovery.
You can get the latest updates about heart valve surgery from Adam at his Facebook, and Twitter pages. Click here to email him.


Bruce Friedman says on September 19th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I personally would have been lost without a recliner following my surgery. I would call it a “must”. However make sure it has a handle or other means of reclining rather than have to shift the body.


Kevin says on September 19th, 2009 at 2:27 pm


From one Kevin to another I am 11 months out from aortic valve replacement and root valve repair. The recliner I used post-op was a life saver. Get (or borrow like I did) one for sure !

Best of luck to you,

Kevin from Michigan


lislepammysue says on September 19th, 2009 at 2:33 pm

I too am interested in this question. I also have cats, one weighing 16 pounds, who pounce on me while sleeping. This is just another concern of mine– plus the fact that we are remodeling—dust, etc.


Steve Varro says on September 19th, 2009 at 2:51 pm

I have two recliners but do not remember using either during the first couple weeks. Mainly because of the force needed to work the control lever and get it back to the upright position. After a couple weeks I did start using the recliner from time to time. For me I found that about 6 to 8 pillows in bed gave me a nice incline to sleep on. Sometimes I was able to sleep in an overstuffed chair with an ottoman.


CHARLES HARRALL says on September 19th, 2009 at 2:53 pm


I used a recliner however when I needed to get out of the recliner my feet seemed to be to short for comfort so I had a simple carpet covered platform made 4″ high covered with carpet which helped me so I had sure footing when I got out of the recliner.

I also had one made to put by my bed so it worked in the same manner to allow me to have a solid sure wieght distribution for my feet. Recliners are not good for extended hours when sleeping because of the vertical position. I have known friends who spent to much time in their recliners and had hip and spine problems which became very painful. My collar bone pain was severe when getting in and out of bed.

15 months since surgery (05/21/2008) and I am able to do most activity but heavy lifting still affects my heels and calves. I went to 57 Cardio-Rehab visits which helped me to regain strenght and reduce the amout of meds I was taking. I am 65 but feel great.

I test my INR with my own Hemosense, works good for me. I also take my medications twice a day and have proved to myself and my cariologist for example ( 5gm Norvasc a day- 2.5 AM then 2,5 PM) reduces side effects plus bolld pressure is better regulated. Coumadin 2.5 PM every night then 2.5 AM on Mon-Wed-Fri, (25 mg a week) the results. I have only had to adjust 3 times in 15 months by watching my Vit-K intake.

My last bloodwork and examine was excellent, I am now working on loosing some wieght. God Bless you and your book plus the e-mails. I hope my experience and sucess with working with my Dr. will make people understand a Dr. can only help those individuals who will help themselves!

I will semi-retire in Jan and will be able to draft information for you about what I have learned so we can help others.



Nancy Frazee says on September 19th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

I am 68 years old and had severe aortic stenosis (crumbled valve). I had replacement surgery on May 27th, 09 and am doing very well. I credit my Lazy Boy recliner for much of my comfort!! I did not sleep in it at night. I slept in my own bed elevated by three pillows. The recliner provided so much comfort all day, and I found that frequent short walks ( at least every hour) were very helpful too!
The main thing that I would like to stress to Kevin is to really be patient and let the healing process take its own course. There is healing pain that is just part of the process. I only took motrin and tylenol—no heavy meds after three days. I think this regimen helped me to feel better faster!

Best of luck, Nancy


nerida says on September 19th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I found a boomerang pillow on top of another regular pillow on a bed to be fantastic. To get in and out of bed I would hook my foot out under the mattress to help pull myself up. I found the recliner lever a challenge as well as shuffling to the front with the footrest up. I am 8 weeks post op (aortic valve replacement) and have returned to work part time (child care assistant), I am 39.
good luck, be sure to do your breathing excercises..


jerry says on September 19th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I didn’t use a recliner, but that may have been nice, though like Steve, I wonder about the arm strength needed to pull the lever.

I used a variety of different kinds of pillows, and jeez, let’s face it, nothing worked, or what worked for one night, didn’t work the next.

I did pick up at a bean-bag chair meant for kids and used that as a bed/recliner pillow, and that certainly worked much better than those bed pillows with the stubby arms that have been around forever and are just completely worthless.

Some nights, I found the living room futon in it’s couch mode easier to lie down in than the bed, other nights it was the bed, and some nights, I would just get drunk and drive around the city all night long blasting Doors music and going from dive to dive until I would collapse from exhaustion.


Debbi Rose says on September 19th, 2009 at 4:30 pm

I did use a recliner in addition to my bed (propped with LOTS of pillows). I found having a change of position helpful. The discomfort in my shoulders, after surgery) made staying in one position for long periods quite uncomfortable.


Maureen Spielman says on September 19th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

I am 5 months post Aorta Valve Replacement and I did not use a recliner when I returned home. I read Adam’s book and how he said it was difficult getting in and out of bed and laying flat. So, prior to surgery, I bought a nice foam wedge pillow with a cotton cover (that can be washed) from the local Bed Bath and Beyond store. It worked out great!! I used my regular pillow on top of the wedge and I was fine. I still had a bit of pain the first week or two. I also bought a sturdy single step stool that we placed by the bed, because our bed is taller and I am shorter. I did sit in a recliner in the family room, but someone had to pull the lever for me the first couple of weeks. Prayers for your surgery Kevin!! Maureen


Rita says on September 19th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Well I too would have been lost without a recliner and definitely a chair that has an arm which will make the pull/tug much easier on the incision site. My surgery incision is along the entire underneath of my right breast so the handle on the right side did me no good for several weeks since I truly could not pull or push – however I am sure if you are having a center incision the handle will be a huge help. The recliner sure did make getting up and down so much easier.


Karen says on September 19th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I had aortic valve replacement and double by pass on Sept 10. First night home I slept in my bed…went fairly well…yeah, hurts big time unless someone can support your shoulders up and down from a sideways position. ( I am a nurse and used that “trick” but still hurts). Second night was awful, couldn’t get comfy and didn’t take enough med. Third night in my recliner was great easy in and easy out but you need good neck support. last night, tried the couch…big mistake…Tonight back to the recliner with associated pillows, water, drugs, glasses and light waiting at my side. When I can easily get up and down alone I will “go back to bed”. By the way my surgery was complicated with lots of bleeding (7 units), an aorta out of “rock” and uncooperative BP although I had never had a problem. Happy to report I walked around the block today and am doing well. Be sure to take enough pain med…having pain does not make you a better person and will prevent you from breathing deeply, eating properly and walking enough. Not a fun time, but doable and I do breathe better already. Ya Gotta Have Heart!!!


Joe says on September 19th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

After a 10 day hospital stay last January following AVR and a pacemaker inplant, I spent my days in the recliner and forced myself to go to bed at night. I didn’t think I could sleep in a chair all night so chose to fight the pain getting into and out of bed. No pain, no gain. right? :)

At 55 it wasn’t always an easy task, but after I got a system down, laying down at night and sitting up in the morning (very carefully) I got through it OK. Over time, I could tell how well my recovery was going by the size of grimmace on my face getting in and out of bed! (As silly as that sounds, it’s actually true.)

As Adam always emphasizes, each person’s individual recovery and pain level is different. Just experiment to see what works. Good luck, Kevin – you’ll do fine!


Jim Cummings says on September 19th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

I think surgeons should have to write a prescription for one. My wife and I went to look for one a couple days out of the hospital. I tried reaching for the handle and it caused some serious discomfort. The salesman then showed us an electric chair he had in the showroom and after trying it, I had to have it. It was delivered the next day. It’s not one of those catipult chairs, just a regular recliner with an electric motor to let it up and down by pushing a button. I slept in it for a couple months prior to being brave enough to getting into and out of bed. (of course I had two surgerys within two weeks which prolonged my recovery) To this day (a year later), my chair is my sanctuary. It was the best $500 I ever spent.


Tim Zajeski says on September 19th, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I rented a power recliner for a month from a hospital supply company and was glad I did! It made it easy getting into the sleeping position and also helped “push” me out of it. I had it delivered BEFORE my surgery so it was there when I came home. I put a TV tray right next to it to hold all my necessities (TV remote, pills, drink etc)

You will really appreciate it when you can finally go back to bed and can lay on your stomach!



BOBBIE says on September 19th, 2009 at 8:36 pm



Steve McDonald says on September 19th, 2009 at 10:16 pm

hi all,

The last group I though I would be involved in, but here I am. Got the word that I have servere aortic stenosis. Just waiting for a call from Mayo to set up my appointments and etc. As the doctors up here in Duluth do not want to do the operation because they think the damage maybe a result of radiation I had in 72 for Hodgkins, and the operation maybe more complicated. That being said, how long before you can sleep on your side? I hate sleeping on my back. And also did anyone here have the operation because of radiation damage? How was the operation? Were you longer in the hospital? I’am 56 and leaning toward the cow valve, heard you can get 20 years on one and I don’t want to be on blood thinners, any comments? Probly the end of Oct. for surgery, any pre op suggestions? Looking forward to getting the book next week, I’m sure there will be enough info in there for me to consider.
Mac, Superior Wi.


Char Entrop says on September 19th, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I used one of those chairs that help you to get almost to your feet. I also slept in bed on occasion. I am 3 months out from Aortic valve replacement and one bypass.


Carol Lang says on September 20th, 2009 at 12:17 am

Simply put, the recliner and the wedge pillows for the bed were “my new best friends” when I had my AVR in June 2008. Be sure that you have your phone, TV remote, reading material, etc. within easy reach. There’s nothing worse then having the phone ring & it’s across the room.
You will find yourself easily dozing off in that recliner. Be sure to get out of the chair for frequent scheduled walks,…….even if it’s just around the house for the first few days. Each day gets better & in the end,……’s all worth it!


Michael Morin says on September 20th, 2009 at 6:17 am

I used a recliner after surgery at the hospital and at home….

I used my recliner at home around 10 days before I could use the bed.


Bernice Levine says on September 20th, 2009 at 8:17 am

No, I never needed to use my recliner, (except for watching television). My mattress is very high off the ground. I am short, and was concerned that I usually used my arms to pull me up into the bed. I did not want to put pressure on the muscles involved in that maneuver,

My husband had a great idea. He bought one of those plastic one step stools that you can get in a home improvement store. It worked beautifully. In fact, I plan on using it all the time.


William says on September 20th, 2009 at 10:42 am

I actually used the recliner as my bed for the first week after returning home from AVR surgery. I did not use it during the day as I wanted to be moving as much as possible, but the recliner was great for sleeping & napping. I tried laying flat in bed, but there was too much discomfort. A recliner was very helpful for me during this period.

On-X AVR 1/09


Amy says on September 20th, 2009 at 1:07 pm

I had my mitral valve replaced 2 years ago and can vividly remember using my recliner for quite some time after I came home. The lever is a definite challenge but I had my husband put it up or down for me. With my chair, you can also not secure it open or closed so I could stretch out on my own if needed. It took a while to get back into my bed and when i did, I used one of those college dorm type pillows (that you lean against – it’s got a sturdy back with arm rests). To this day, it is sometimes challenging to sleep facing left cause of odd sensations but…(I was 43 when I had my surgery).


Cindy McGinn says on September 20th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

I, actually my husband, took a different route after my surgery. The day before I came home he rented a hospital bed. He did this for three reasons; one it would be easier to get up and down, two he was worried about the strain of pulling the lever on the recliner, and three he was terrified to sleep with me. He was afraid he would forget and hug me in his sleep and cause me pain. The doctor wouldn’t write a script for it, so it was self pay. But at $100 a month it was a bargain. We converted my home office into my temporary bedroom. We have 5 cats and a very active toddler as part of our household. As an added bonus it was a great place for me to hide when I needed some down time. After a few weeks I moved back into our bedroom and by that time getting up and down was a breeze.


Robin Hirsch says on September 20th, 2009 at 3:33 pm

I did not use a recliner. My wife set me up with pillows to prop me up a bit so that I could swing my legs around and sit up. I could see the problem with a recliner would be that you have to lie on your back. Really, after a few days you do get stronger and the issues of in and out of bed decline so the recliner would cost a lot of money for relatively short term use.


Joan Parkinson says on September 20th, 2009 at 6:08 pm

The day after I got home I had my husband go the the Home Health Supply store and purchase the foam wedge pillow. That and a couple more pillows did the trick, also a small step stool beside the bed works great. I would have my ever present ‘huggie pillow’ and when I wanted to sleep my husband would put a pillow behind my back so I wouldn’t roll over. It was months before I wanted to give up the wedge.

Another ‘secret’ is having a warm blanket at night (or anytime for that matter). Get a large flannel blanket and put it in the dryer to warm it up. Also put your towel and terry robe in the dry to warm them up at shower time.

Good luck.


Keri Sims says on September 20th, 2009 at 7:56 pm

My husband did not use a recliner after his heart surgery (age 40 y.o.), but did sleep at a decent incline for quite a while after surgery (by utilizing pillows). The pressure was too great when laying flat.


Jean Karloski says on September 20th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I used the recliner during the day after aortic valve replacement….although my doctor told me I could not use my arms to get up out of the chair or the bed. My husband was great to go under my arms and just give me a little assist so I was not putting pressure on my arms and thus on my incision and ribs. At night I would sleep in bed with lots of pillows and find a comfortable place. Hope that helps. It is helpful and secure to have someone there with you for a couple of weeks for help and encouragement.


Dawn says on September 21st, 2009 at 7:46 am

I did not use a recliner. I used lots of pillows and propped feet under mattress for leverage when getting out of bed. My back hurt horribly in hospital and for awhile after getting home. A recliner would not have been comfortable. The best thing I did before surgery was buy myself a memory foam mattress topper and pillow. I took the pillow to the hospital. I put an extra large cushion on the end of my coach and that was a life saver for getting up from sitting on the coach. Made a huge difference. In answer to one of the questions in the string of answers-I sleep with my small (20 lb) dog and that scared me to death right after surgery. She had to be banned from the bedroom for awhile. I was just too afraid she would walk on me trying to play.


Lee Samsel says on September 21st, 2009 at 8:00 am

Yes the recliner is the only way to go I tried bed but it was very uncomfortable


Doug says on September 21st, 2009 at 8:45 am

I actually slept in my recliner for about 2 weeks after I got home. I just couldn’t get comfortable in bed…tried a wedge, a stack of pillows. Nothing…but my recliner was great. I didn’t have any issues getting out of the recliner either…just lean forward and use your legs to stand up.

Best of luck!


Ginny Choate says on September 21st, 2009 at 9:01 am

My husband underwent mitral valve replacement in May. I had rented a hospital bed and set it up right on our living room! It comes in pieces so don’t worry about how they will get it in the house. It only cost $250.00 for a whole month and believe me we renewed for an additional month and it was a LIFE saver. The nurses had taught me in the hospital how to get him in and out of bed with the least amount of pain and I continued at home. We had a recliner but he only used it once. Check out your area for hospital bed rentals with the controls. Who cares what your home looks like for the first two months – you are healing and on your way to a better life! Take care, Ginger & Danny


Harvey Bettesworth says on September 21st, 2009 at 2:09 pm

I arrived home yesrterday Sep 20 after surgery Sep 14. This afternoon I had a nap using a recliner, but I intend to continue using regular bed for overnignt rest. I have not had any adverse pain using either the recliner or the bed.


Cindy says on September 21st, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I shipped my zero gravity patio chair from Big 5 sports to NY (fr. CA) I had to remain in NY for 16 days post op … the chair was a life saver! I used it at home for several weeks as well. It is an inexpensive way to have a GREAT chair. It very easily goes from sitting to bach & coming up is easy too. If you don’t know what it is just google zero gravity chairs. Some are really pricey … my was not & now I use it on my patio to read.


Pat Toner says on September 21st, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Adam – I LIVED in my recliner for weeks after my aortic valve. It wasn’t that I had a hard time getting up out of my bed – I sleep on my side and the pain was excruciating. After several weeks in the recliner I tried the bed and went back to the recliner for a few more weeks – even postponed the start of my rehab after that experience. Eventually I made my way back to the bed but even now, 16 months later, every once in awhile laying on my side is uncomfortable.


Pat Toner


Tana Shipman says on September 22nd, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I did not use a recliner but bought a wonderful memory foam wedge pillow from the Relax The Back Store. It was a life-saver. The first night I tried to get in bed without the wedge I was shocked at how painful it was. The pillow made it so much easier to get in and out of bed and was really comfortable for sleeping too. I thought the price ($139) was a little expensive at first, but after using it for the first three weeks that I was home I probably would have paid double for it.

Good luck with your surgery and recovery.


Lana Moore says on September 22nd, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I had surgery mid May and a friend who had had heart surgery suggested the recliner idea. While in the hospital, I did not lie in the bed except for a few minutes while the doctor did something just before I went home (I don’t remember what it was). There was a recliner in my room, and I rested quite well the 4 days I was there.
My husband moved a recliner into our bedroom beside the bed before surgery. I slept, rested, etc., in the recliner until 6 weeks after surgery. I took no chance that getting in or out of the bed would hurt me. I had a yard stick to poke him if I needed up to go to the bathroom at night. My husband had to help me up from the recliner the first 3 weeks, but after that I could get up with no problem. My recuperation went well. I am 125+% better now than before surgery!


John Turan says on September 22nd, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Recliner Question: YES, have a recliner available! After my Ross Procedure I lived in my recliner for about a month before transitioning to bed. In fact, I tried transitioning a week early and was happy to have my recliner available for that last transition. Renting or buying may not be necessary if you already own one. However, you may not be able to use yours post op. I have a test you can use in to try to predict if your present recliner will work. As Adam wrote in his book (my prep course) even opening a slider or fridge my not be possible and this includes some recliners. The Test Before Surgery: First, your recliner will work best if it has the long pull lever. Next, while sitting, reach down to the lever while bracing your arm against the armrest. Now try pulling the lever using ONLY your fingers (like squeezing bicycle brakes) without using your arm/chest muscles. If you can squeeze through the initial resistance you should be ok since you are not using the affected muscles. However, this will depend on the design of both your chair and your anatomy and could vary so I recommend having plan B (an rented/purchased lift chair) arranged if your initial post op experience is uncomfortable. Having worked in healthcare, I understand lift chair rentals may be difficult to find but check with your local oxygen, medical equipment and home health agencies. I recently saw them for sale at my local “big box members club” for a fraction of the usual cost. It also makes a great donation to an aging friend, relative or church once you no longer need it. I have had some people ask me for recommendations prior to their own surgery and I always recommend the following 3 essential pre-op must-haves…#1 Adam’s Book (one copy for each immediate family member or caretaker), #2 The Incision Shield (Adam so graciously gifted to me), #3 A Recliner. I hope my thoughts help and remember what Adam says about everyone’s recovery being unique. My prayers will be with you and your family. – John


Mary Ferraro says on September 23rd, 2009 at 9:56 pm

I stayed at my sister’s home where she had rented a hospital bed and it was sooo worth it. The man came to the house and actually assembled the thing right there for us during the week I was in hospital. (My awesome sister had cleared-out her spare room.) Also, be sure to ask the physical therapist who will visit you post-op “Exactly what is the best way for me to get out of bed?” Mine taught me how & it was very helpful. I am almost 11 months post mitral valve repair at age 53.


Heart valave repair says on September 24th, 2009 at 1:41 pm

I have two recliners but do not remember using either during the first couple weeks. he best thing I did before surgery was buy myself a memory foam mattress topper and pillow.


Dana says on September 25th, 2009 at 12:38 pm

My husband is just about to have Aeortic valve replacement & mitral valve repair in October 2009. We had just talked about the use of a recliner after his surgery, I am so glad that you have this information on the web. I can’t wait to use some of the advice and helpful hints here to help him recover!
Thanks again and lots of luck to all of you for a quick recovery


Victoria says on September 25th, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Hello, I am due to have AVR in October. I will be having my surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. I just want to thank you, Adam and the many friends of your website, for helping me through this time. I have some idea, now, what I will be dealing with. I understand that my own experience will be just that, my own But, I feel so much better knowing ‘something’ about before and after the surgery. Thank you all for you positive input. It has blessed me tremendously. God Bless you all!


Rosemary Geraci says on September 25th, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I only used a recliner for one night. I decided to see how it felt getting out of my bed. I had been taught to roll onto my side, then push myself up with my arms after back surgery.

I tried the same procedure after aortic valve replacement and I must say I experienced almost no discomfort.

Hope this will work for you, too.


John Vranizan says on September 29th, 2009 at 6:44 pm

I had an aortic valve replacement at age 52. (Star-Edwards valve). I am now going on 74. I went back to work in about three weeks following surgery. I had little trouble getting in/out of bed. I did begin to use a “sit-up” type pillow that I continue to use today.


Allan Weeks says on September 30th, 2009 at 1:04 am

Hi my name is Allan and I live in Toronto Canada where we have our medical bills paid for, I’m not bragging I’m just stating a fact because what I was able to do was get my GP to reccomend to OHIP(thats the goverment short form for the part of goverment which covers costs) to get me a hospital bed from a company that rents them out by the month. Anyway my doctor was able to basically write me a perscription to rent a hospital bed which I put in my living room as I was told not to climb any stairs the first couple of weeks of my recovery. So I slept in my hospital bed day and night for 2 months and believe me it saved me a lot of pain and you will also have no concept of time because you never know when the pain my come and go any time of the day or night so your sleep patterns are whenever your tired you sleep regardless of the tme of day, I would stress if you are prescribed pain medication take it and don’t miss any just when you think you feel OK the pain builds up and then I would have to wait until the medication kicked in again, because even with the minimal movement in and out of your bed the pain could be severe and like the doctor said everyone is different but I can tell for me the first few weeks the pain was severe if you don’t take it easy. But getting back to the hospital bed, get one if you can, I highly reccomend it. I’m not sure what kind of effort it takes to get out of a recliner but I guess it’s a lot better than a regular flat bed. Anyway good luck and I hope I gave you a little insight on the first couple of months of recovery.


Lee Samsel says on December 30th, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Yes the recliner made life much easer I did not see my bed for 8 weeks the recliner sas much better


Tony Mule says on December 30th, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Triple bypass and aortic valve replacement in Dec. 08. I spent most of my first month dozing in the recliner. I really never got good nights sleep. My problem was fear that I could not get out of a regular bed by myself and would be like a turtle on his back unable to get up again. That panic was overwhelming for me. About a month after surgery a friend suggested that I place a futon mattress folded in half behind and under the the mattress on our king bed. This worked great, it allowed me to sleep propped up like a hospital bed and able to just move my feet off the side of the bed and kind of roll to sit up and out. I did not have to wrestle will pillows piled up. Finally got some rest, but still never a full night. It did ease the fear and ability to get out. Finally told my dr. about sleeping issues and he prescribed ambien. That worked and I finally started to get some sound sleep. Had a hard time getting off them though, became somewhat dependent on them. Just a month or so ago I weened myself off and am glad to be free of them, however some sleep issues have returned. I would recommend the ambien, but not for extended periods.


Greg Jenkins says on June 15th, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I am 16 and currently one week out of open heart surgery. I had two pulmonary veins moved, my mitral valve tightened, and a conduit in one of my veins replaced. I was never able to get confortable in the hospital beds but one of the nurses brought in a rocking chair and it after adding a pillow to the back it worked like charm! Now I am at home and we don’t have any rocking chairs but I found recliners to be almost as comfortable. I had major pain trying to sleep in my bed but last night tried a recliner and slept straight through the night. However, I am having some enourmous back spasms, I experienced these shortly after the surgery then they came back after I started using a recliner. My doctor thinks it is because of the hard operating table and awkward positions they may have had to put me in for surgery (I was out for 7 hours) but I am wondering if the recliner had anything to do with it as they didn’t start again till after I had used it.


Dianna says on November 15th, 2011 at 10:30 am

I am post op one week exactly today and I haven’t laid down to sleep since the night before my surgery! I’m sooo scared I won’t be able to get back up! I’m 23 years old and had an ASD closed via open heart the best advice I can give is get a reclining something! Use pillows behind your back neck and especially at your feet so blood clots don’t form if ur foot rest isn’t soft and fluffy. I find the pillows behind my back help with the pain! That’s where ALL of my pain is! Best of luck to tthose who are or have had their surgery!!!


Anne Stohrer says on November 17th, 2011 at 11:25 pm

I am three weeks postop and I have lived in my recliner since surgery. It adjusts angles, supports my legs while sitting, and allows me to sleep. The only challenge is the lever, but I have mastered doing that without pain. I highly recommend a recliner!


miss Bradley says on January 25th, 2012 at 5:35 pm

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 says on April 30th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

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 says on August 23rd, 2012 at 3:29 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

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


Charles Whitten says on September 6th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 3:15 pm

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… 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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

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!



Rosie says on September 6th, 2012 at 3:35 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 4:23 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 5:00 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 5:32 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 6:04 pm

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 says on September 6th, 2012 at 11:01 pm

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 says on September 7th, 2012 at 7:51 am

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 says on September 7th, 2012 at 10:34 am

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 says on September 7th, 2012 at 11:30 am

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 says on September 7th, 2012 at 4:16 pm

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 says on September 7th, 2012 at 5:15 pm

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 says on September 7th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

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 says on September 8th, 2012 at 8:56 am

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 says on September 9th, 2012 at 8:55 am

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 says on September 9th, 2012 at 12:46 pm

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 says on September 9th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

I hesitated to ask lots of questions from my surgeon and the physician before my mvr last 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 says on September 10th, 2012 at 11:50 am

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 says on September 10th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

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 says on September 10th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

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 says on September 15th, 2012 at 5:12 pm

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 says on February 13th, 2013 at 1:03 am

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 says on February 13th, 2013 at 9:41 am

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


Chris Kline says on September 17th, 2013 at 2:02 am

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 says on November 5th, 2013 at 5:10 pm

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 says on November 6th, 2013 at 7:20 am

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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