Fluid In Lungs After Heart Valve Surgery?

By Adam Pick on December 13, 2007

Earlier today, I received an email from Stacey Ballan, a caregiver. Stacey’s mom recently had heart valve replacement surgery. Inside her email, there was a very interesting question that brought back memories of a minor minor heart valve surgery complication that I experienced.



Stacey’s email states, “Adam… My mother was supposed to be leaving the hospital today (it has been one week since her surgery). However, now the doctors say they have found fluid in her lungs. Is this normal or could it mean her valve is still leaking somehow? I feel so bad for her, she was all excited about coming home. Any idea as to what may be happening?”

So you know, I am not a surgeon, a cardiologist or a pulmonary specialist. That said, I can not comment on the reasons why Stacey’s mom is experiencing fluid in her lungs.

However, I did experience fluid in my lungs for the first week following my double heart valve replacement (known as the Ross Procedure). It felt like a terrible cramp in my ribs that would not go away. Every time I breathed in, there would be a long, pinch of pain. Needless to say, it wasn’t fun.

When I told my cardiologist about pain, Dr. Rosin told me it was most likely fluid in my lungs after bypass surgery. Dr. Rosin instructed me to use my incentive spirometer every hour for ten minutes for two days. The cardiologist assured me the pain would go away.

Well… Thanks to the handy, dandy Airlife Incentive Spirometer, the pain went away and my recovery continued. Little did I know, a few more complications lurked in my future recovery.

I hope this helps explain a little bit more about fluid in the lungs after heart bypass surgery and heart valve surgery.

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Priyanka says on June 23rd, 2008 at 10:44 pm


My dad underwent bypass surgery on 29 Dec.He also has the complaint of fluid in lungs.He complains of pain near ribs daily.Also his haemoglobin level is going down and he is unable to digest iron capsules.
Please help me ASAP.Reply me on my id

Susan says on July 27th, 2010 at 12:56 am

My husband had preventive heart attack and had a bypass. Surgery seem to go well we went home and for five days and every day seem worse. He was re admitted to the hospital and had 1.2 liters of fluid off heart sack and 1 liter off lungs. From this he contracted an infection in the blood and is now battling on anti biotics. He has been placed on a breathing tube sudated and on dialysis to get the kidney functioning and remove more fluid. Two days now on dialysis and we have an additional 5 liters. I am told today he is stable and I am very thankful but he has fluid still on the lungs and posible pneumonia. I am also told he cannot come off the breathing tube until they clear the lung and he can breath on his own. Dr says this is a long process and can take days to weeks. Is there a time frame for this, I want to hear my husband talk and convience me again why he needed to have this surgery…. Susan processingtogo@aol.com

Fran Zilko says on July 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I too, had fluid in my lung sac which started about 14 days post op. Had to have 2 liters removed from one side and a week later had 1 liter from the other side. Breathing became so much easier after that. I had been using my spirometer faithfully, yet this still occured. Doubled my efforts after that and the remaining fluid did get reabsorbed. Am now 4 months post op and do deep breathing several times a day, it feels so good.

Robert says on August 22nd, 2011 at 11:50 pm

My dad had triple bypass 21 days ago. He’s struggled to get the energy and all clear to leave hospital. He’s still there. Yesterday, they took an xray and he’s got fluid on lung “bad”. My dad was not 100% energy level before the bypass…maybe 70% but no chance of heart attack or stroke. But now he is on his back, in hospital, can’t breath well, has fluid in his lung, has pneumonia, and his willpower and strength is being challenged daily and he’s afraid to be alone. I’m in computer systems. We have a science of “don’t fix it if it aint broken” called risk management because 80% of all computer problems occur because someone tried to change something or fix something that was already working okay. Is it possible heart surgeons prescribe bypass without this risk aversion before the procedure? I know this can’t help my dad now, but maybe it can help others to ask their surgeons some tough questions before they go under the knife. I hope I am 100% wrong in my feelings.

shelly shipman says on February 8th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

We really need help, it’s only been a month sence my dad had a 4 waybypass and he is having to have his lungs drained every 3 days and its just waring him and us dowon, why is this happening? please help

jean says on February 13th, 2012 at 8:41 pm

My father had triple by pass heart surgery 18 days ago and is still in hospital because of fluid …He is short of breath and he feels very weak…He is 85….Is this normal

Julie says on April 2nd, 2012 at 4:00 pm

My mother in law had valve replacement three days ago and is on ventilator because she could nt breathe deep enough on her own. Today she has fluid on her lungs and I gave consent to have them remove the fluid. Is this normal after this surgery ?

Scotty Miller says on September 26th, 2016 at 5:13 pm

My dad had a triple bypass heart surgery about 8 months ago. He has some balloon like pockets on his lungs (5 to be exact) that could pop if he coughed too hard etc. They said a lung replacement could fix it but,why is fluid still building up,why does he keep turning purple in his lips,hands etc.. then passing out. A lot of the times he’s leaving a place and gets like that even with minimal activity. They never did any follow up treatments because his pulmonologist retired while on vacation.He saw the doc a few days ago and his heart is at 47% , they say this is normal.His new doctors and nurses are pretty irate about the lack of care from his previous drs. The new nurses he has now were able to see what was going on just by the x rays and the other image tests they have. Kind of in dire straights here. They say no parent should ever have to bury their child and I agree but,I also don’t think a child should have to bury his/her 3rd Dad either. My bio dad,my step dad and now my adoptive dad.

Jeff Torres says on September 29th, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Hi Shelly, i wanted to ask you what you found out , I know it was awhile ago but my father is going through the same thing

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