“Why Is My Husband Gaining Weight From Fluids After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Joanie

I just received an interesting question from Joanie. She writes, “Hi Adam – My husband had mitral valve repair surgery three days ago. I noticed that he’s gained 8 pounds since the surgery. The doctors say the gain is due to fluid intake. Is this common? What fluids did they use? How long until he loses the fluid? Thanks, Joanie.”

Man Laying In Hospital Bed

While I had my thoughts on the topic, I wanted to provide Joanie an expert opinion. That said, I contacted Dr. Larry Cohn, MD, who practices at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. During his 40-year career, Dr. Cohn has performed over 10,000 cardiac procedures. (To learn more about Dr. Cohn, click here.)

Dr. Larry Cohn, Brigham & Women's Hospital
Dr. Larry Cohn – Brigham & Women’s Hospital

In his response to Joanie’s question about weight gain after heart surgery, Dr. Cohn noted:

Retention of fluid following all forms of heart surgery, especially mitral valve surgery, is very common. This is because in most institutions, like Brigham & Women’s, no blood is used and it is mostly saline in the heart lung machine to dilute the patients blood elements, thus causing some fluid retention. Also, surgery causes some hormonal changes which can cause fluid retention. Thus, it is extremely common for people to gain weight following open heart surgery of any kind, especially mitral valve surgery. This can be even worse if the patient has been in heart failure prior to the surgery where these changes will be even more magnified post-operatively.

The judicious use of diuretics postoperatively, quickly releases this fluid from the edematous tissues and the patient excretes this extra water out within a few days. Edema like this should be gone in approximately three weeks at the very latest.

Thanks to Joanie for her question and a special thanks to Dr. Larry Cohn for sharing his clinical expertise and research with our patient and caregiver community.

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.

  • Robert Baker

    I had my surgery almost two years ago and have gained 10 pounds. My theory as a non medical professional is two fold: One, my heart and organs were severely swollen and had decreased functions by my heart condition and two my appetite just got better after my recovery. My conclusion is that my body just went back to what should have been normal for me and that includes the extra weight. I am proactive though, and monitor it weekly, pushing myself away from the table if it gets out of control.

  • Eric Desbonnet

    8 lbs that is good. I went from 178 lbs pre-op to 215 lbs 3
    days post op (the first day I was able to weigh myself). Thank God for Lasix, I’m back to 178.

  • Melissa

    I had aorta valve replacement last Friday and the morning of surgery I weighed 140. The next morning (24 hrs later) I weighed 147. It has been more difficult getting rid of the extra water than I thought it would be.

  • Brian HILL

    I had a replacement Aortic VALVE (Bovine) on 20th September 2011. The procedure went well and I awoke with no pain whatsover. None has developed since. Within 4 days I was plodding arround the hospital corridors albeit under the watchful eye of a physiotherapist.So any fear one might have of subsequent pain from the operation may be unfounded Also I now weigh virtually the same as before the operation at 184lbs. My old leaky valve had been monitored for several years and eventually the surgeon elected to operate before I experienced any heart failure symptoms. That could have bee a significant factor in my recovery. It is early days yet but fingers crossed I could now have many years ahead of me. Brian Age 76. (I am advised that the new valve could be good for 20 years ie the ‘rest of my life’ boom boom)

  • Travis Watson

    I gained 8 pounds from pro op to my first weigh in the next day. Those 8 pounds stayed on until the day after I got home from the hospital. Then I was 8 pounds under my pre surgery weight and it gradually took me almost two months to get back to my pre surgury weight.

  • Linda Hillyer

    I had mitral valve repair on Oct 20. The surgeon said I was hemorraging
    and took me back to surgery and cut me open again and also
    shaved part of my heart. I have over 20 lbs of fluid on me and it has
    now been 6 weeks. I am in a rehab hospital
    and giving me diuretics. As of today I have lost 3 lbs.
    The doctors all give me same answer – it takes time. How
    Much more time?? Is this normal? I feel like something is terribly wrong.
    Please give me some advise.

  • peggyann doak

    for brian hill.
    my blood pressure zeroed out during the operation. It kept doing so for the next 4 days. I was allowed on a minimum of pain killers (and I have a wicked high tolerance for them). there is pain there. trust me. Most often it is controlled well. But in some cases where pain control and life control conflict, the pain control comes second. After I was out of ICCU, 8 days later, I had copius amounts of pain meds. lol.

  • Nancy Jackson

    I had aortic valve replacement on Aug8. 2013
    I retained a lot of fluid . I was put on LASIK and my intake and out put were monitored. Till I went home. I have always struggled with my weight and that has not changed. Darn it
    As for pain, it was understandable that there would be pain in the sternum. I took xtra stenghth Tylenol for that and usually just at bedtime . I have broken bones before so I definately understood that my breastbone would hurt if there were sudden movement such as sneezing or potholes when out for a drive. All in all I am thrilled with my outcome and it is great to be able to walk a block without thinking I might drop dead.

  • J Coughran

    How long does it take to go away? Its only been 2 weeks and I am taking Lasix — no effect as yet

  • J Coughran

    How long does fluid retention last — only been 3 weeks since valve replacement, but not sure Lasix is doing job. What do I need to do?

  • Deedra

    I had my aortic valve and part of my aorta replaced june 7 2012 since the surgery i have not lost any weight and I keep swelling up, and i have to take one of my left over lasix about twice a month. When i take the lasix i lose anywhere from 5 to 15lbs of fluid in a matter of hours. But by the next morning the weight is all right back on. Has anyone ever had any experiences like this and if so any advice. I would really like to lose 50lbs because of the heart failure that i had for 5 years prior to my surgery, (they didnt find the aneurysm for a long time) I have gained a lot of weight from being so tired and stuff. I want to get back in shape and every time i work out even walking for an hour i swell up like a pumpkin. any ideas?

  • Terri

    I had my mitral valve and ASD repaired 16 days ago. I’ve been taking 40mg of Lasix since then, however, I’ve noticed a few days ago when I sit up for long periods of times, my feet and ankles swell. At my follow up appointment, fluid was still present around my diaphragm on my X-rays. Is this normal, even though I’m taking Lasix??? I have another follow up in 2 weeks.

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