“Do All Heart Valve Surgery Patients Go To Cardiac Rehab?” Asks Eva

By Adam Pick on May 4, 2009

In response to a recent blog titled, “Do I Have Cardiac Depression?”, I just received a follow-up question from Eva. She writes, “Adam: Does every heart valve surgery patient go to cardiac rehabilitation?”

Specific to the recovery from heart surgery, I believe this is a great question for both patients (and their caregivers) to consider. That said, I asked this exact question to 75+ heart surgery patients, during a recent survey, to evaluate whether-or-not cardiac rehab was common among recovering heart surgery patients.

As you can see below, my research indicates that only 51% of patients surveyed did participate in a cardiac rehab program. So you know, I have a problem with that statistic. In my opinion, that survey result is wayyyyyyyyyy tooooooooo low.



Following my heart valve surgery, I learned the fundamental benefits of cardiac rehabilitation. The cardiac program I attended at Torrance Memorial Hospital not only strengthened my body, it strengthened my mind. Being around 20 patients every other day nurtured my belief and realization that a 100% recovery was possible – even with the complications I experienced after my heart valve replacement. (To learn more about heart valve replacement operations, click here.)

While I have yet to coordinate any clinical research on this topic, I imagine there has to be some form of positive and direct correlation among those patients who (i) attend cardiac rehab programs and (ii) do not experience cardiac depression.


Adam At Cardiac Rehab Riding A Bike


I hope the information shared above encourages you to integrate a cardiac rehabilitation program into your recovery. If your cardiologist or surgeon does not share the benefits of cardiac rehab classes with you, please ask them about the local cardiac rehab programs that can help you post-op.

Thanks for the great question Eva!!!

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.

Sheila Turner says on May 4th, 2009 at 1:20 pm

After aortic valve surgery on October 16, 2009, I did go to cardiac re-hab at the suggestion of my surgeon, Stephen Gerndt, of Green Bay, Wisconsin practicing at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay. The surgery was much easier than I expected and the recovery quick. The re-hab at Door County Memorial Hospital in Sturgeon Bay, WI showed me that I could successfully push myself on several machines and survive! It gave me the confidence to get right back into life and enjoy each day. Now at 70 years of age I am looking forward to many more good years.
If your insurance will not cover re-hab perhaps you can find a “Y” close to you and get instructiions from your physician for your re-hab there.

Johan in Cape Town says on May 4th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

The Sport Science Institute of South Africa, attached to the University of Cape Town runs a wonderful cardio rehab programme. I first discovered and joined the programme earlier last year after a heart attack (the blocked artery was stented) during which my severely stenosed aortic valve again came to the fore. The programme did wonders for my mind, it gave me my self-confidence back.
My aortic valve surgery is now scheduled for 1 July and both my cardiologist and surgeon readily agreed that I rejoin the programme to strenghen my heart and mind BEFORE the operation. I shall continue with the rehab programme AFTER the surgery as soon as I get the green light. At age 66 I fully agree with Adam that cardio rehab should be seen as a vital part of the healing process, not to be missed. My medical insurance will not pay for this but I have budgeted for it and consider it an investment in furthering a long and happy post valve operation life!

SpikeSpriesterbach says on May 4th, 2009 at 3:07 pm

At my first appointment after mitral valve replacement I asked the surgeon about cardiac rehab. He told me the benefits are that they will make sure you get exercise and you can measure your improvement. I opted not to go figuring I will be up and about as much as possible. I should have paid more attention to being able to see measured improvement. It would have helped with depression that is so common following this surgery.

Like any post-op patient, you have good days and bad during recovery and, if you’re like me, you expect a high level relatively rapid improvement but recovery was a lot slower than I though was right. Seeing measured improvement would have kept me out of the depths.

My recommendation is to have the rehab if you can swing it.

Martin D. Goodkin says on May 4th, 2009 at 3:39 pm

I am very sorry I didn’t know about (!) or insist on cardiac rehab–I truly believe I wouldn’t ahve gone through the horrendous anxiety attacks I had!!!

Rosie says on May 4th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

After Mitral Valve replacement in October 2008, I started rehab, and I still go 3 times a week for 1 hour each visit. It is well worth the effort you put forth and your heart will thank you ! I have met other people with heart problems that have not done the rehab their doctors requested, and they are not as healthy mentally or physically as those who go regularly. PUT FORTH THE EFFORT AND GO !!!

Bonnie Neufeld says on May 4th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Dear Adam,
Last summer I got really sick and it ended up being Endocarditis due to a leaky valve that I never knew about. I was visiting in Canada when it happened and am still here (stuck) in the process. I asked to delay the surgery as long as possible and we worked really hard to get better until January, I was gaining ground. Slowly I have gone downhill until now I have all the symptoms and my cardio guys say it is time.

When I first got sick, I wanted to know all about what was wrong with me and went on the internet and watched the surgery they were proposing for me (valve replacement). For me, that was the wrrong thing to do as it has produced much fear and anxiety for me. My surgery should be withing the month and my question is should I read your book (I purchased it last fall) before I go in or during recovery? My next step is Angiogram in 10 days to see if a bypass is necessary and I want my life back and as soon as possible!

Thanks for all you hard work to lead the way for us, do you wish you had known everything before your surgery? Sincerely Bonnie (the big sissy) Neufeld

Maureen Sadang says on May 4th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Hi Adam, I am glad you’ve addressed this question. where I live, there is no official cardio rehab – very frustrating! The question is then do I have to join a gym or what. no answers on my end. I don’t know that I would say I had any depression, but if one’s body is not functioning well, weight gain and just plain muscle weakness provides a depression of it’s own. I am delighted to say that I discovered a free water aerobics program 3 days a week at our local poo. While there I am doing laps and increasing my times daily. I can’t tell you how much better I feel! Exercises I just didn’t have the mobility do ‘on land’, came much easier in the water. Not to mention how good it just feels to be out in the sunshine!!! Nine months after surgery I can finally sleep at night without my chest hurting! I am able to ramp up my walking program and just plain feel better. Am losing some of the weight that can’t be doing much for my energy level either. I joined weight watchers in my area just to get a better eating regime. None of this was done with suggestion from the medical community. I really appreciate your forum to hear how this is going with others. It has been somewhat disappointing to have not had much direction from the medical field here regarding recovery. I guess this is pretty much routine for them. Perhaps there are others out there who don’t do well with treadmills and gym settings who might consider the benefits of water aerobics. A note of caution in that it is also easier to ‘overdo’ because of the water therapy, but for me, it has been a life saver! thanks, Maureen

Wilmer D. Brown says on May 4th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

After my Aortic Valve replacement, I wasn’t aware of a rehab. But I probaly wouldn’t of went. I was so glad and thankful just to be alive and active. I went back to work part time after 2 1/2 months. i didn’t have time to be depressed. My Therapist is GOD!

Lisa says on May 4th, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Being young and physically fit, I did not think I would need cardiac rehab, but I am so glad I did. I started about 3 weeks after my surgery and continued for 2 months. Not only does it commit you to getting back into physical shape, but it was a great outlet for me to be able to talk with others about their cardiac surgery experiences. Since we had to wear monitors it also helped with diagnosing a problem that I have developed since my surgery. I am a registered nurse, and am hoping to be able to work in cardiac rehab someday soon. Imagine if your healthcare provider had similar experiences to your own, I know it would have made a world of difference for me.

Sean says on May 4th, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I learned of cardiac rehab while still in the hospital (Duke). The surgeon also recommeded it highly. I live 60 miles away, so I found a program at the local hospital. It might help some people emotionally, but to me the greatest benefit was the well-planned, and well-monitored, exercise program that we did each visit. I started 3 weeks after surgery and continued for the prescribed 12 weeks. With each visit, my blood pressure and heart rate were monitored during the different aerobic exercises (stationary bike, treadmill, and seated step machine.) With each visit, I was allowed to work harder on the machines – because the monitored results showed it was safe to do so. My insurance wasn’t going to cover it all – each visit was over $150! So after a couple of weeks of going 3 times a week, I switched to once a week, and then I would go to ythe YMCA and do the same routine on the machines there (eesentially for free, since already a member). The cardiac rehab people said that wasn’t ideal, but that they thought it was OK. After 12 weeks, I was cleared by both my surgeon and the cardiac rehab group to return to my normal exercise program (alternating swimming laps with weight lifting) – but to “ease into it, with reason.” So to me the great benefit of cardiac rehab is to get you safely onto (or back into) an exercise routine… for life!

Joan Parkinson says on May 4th, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Hi Adam
Apparently the heart surgeons in my area do not recommend cardiac rehad after replacement valve surgery even though during our ‘getting ready to go home’ seminar we were told that all patients should be going through the program.

However, at my first visit with my cardiologist he signed me up for the program which I am starting 3-1/2 months after surgery.

I live in Hamilton, Ontario.
Joan Parkinson

Nancy Shaheen says on May 4th, 2009 at 9:30 pm

I had an aortic valve replacement (Bovine tissue) in January and began Cardiac Rehab the 3rd week after surgery. At the beginning of the 2nd week of rehab, I arrived and hooked up the monitor and before even beginning excercise, the nurses had me sit down and begin asking me questions, etc. I didn’t even know it, but I was in atrial fibrilation/flutter. Within an hour, I was wheeled around to ER and then admitted back into the hospital for what turned out to be 4 days in ICU monitoring my heart. They had to shock my heart back into rhythm. They think it was caused from pericarditus around the heart after surgery. I went back to rehab the next week. I was thankful for the quick response of rehab staff. I am soon finishing up 3 months of rehab which have been invaluable!

Trina Murry says on May 4th, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I am 8 weeks post op tomorrow after aortic valve replacement and Bentall procedure. I had some complications during surgery and in ICU and have also had some mild cardiac depression. I will begin cardiac rehab this Friday (initial visit) and then 3 days per week for 12 wks. I am very excited even though it will be a little bit of a drive for me. My cardiologist was excited that I wanted to do it.

Richard Erickson says on May 5th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I have had three AVR in the last 32 years, I am now 59. The last AVR surgery was fifteen years ago, I opted to have a bioprosthetic aortic valve, which has functioned much better than the last two. I was out of the hospital in three days, but was unable to take advantage of cardic rehab because I am self-employed, had no health insurance and had to get back to work to pay for the surgery. All total I lost about a week and a half of work.
Not having an opportunity to go to Cardiac Rehab, I felt that if I got back to my daily routine as quickly as possable, that would be my rehab. It worked for me and I was back to normal health quickly. Your body tells you what the limits of your activity is, so just “Listen”.

Kerrigan says on May 5th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I’ve completed 26 sessions, 1 hour at a time three times a week, in a 36 session cardiac rehab program. The monitoring and council by staff and the accompanying help with diet make a huge difference. Having other prople around you who are also recovering from similar cardiac events is both helpful and informing. Found about about it in Adam’s book prior to my surgery. Also very informative and helpful.

Bev says on May 5th, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Both my Cardiologist and Surgeon told me it was not necessary to go to Cardio Rehabbecause I had no bypass surgery. I had Aortic Valve replacement surgery with a mechanical valve 8 months ago. Although I never really exercised much before surgery, I am a very active 65 year old. I opted out of Rehab. I recovered quickly with no depression and am back to my active lifestyle. I have always had a lot of energy and still do. I still have some occasional discomfort at my incision site, and my big complaint is not sleeping well because I hear the valve clicking at night. Other than those, I feel fantastic.

Becca says on May 7th, 2009 at 12:53 am

I had my aortic valve replaced last July (bovine tissue). My surgeon in Huntsville, AL told me not to do rehab until my sternum healed – and by that time (10 weeks)I had to go back to work as a truck driver and was not able to do it! Fortunately, I started a daily walking program with neighborhood friends – so cardiac depression wasn’t a problem – they kept me laughing! I feel fine now, and usually forget I’ve had surgery!

chris says on May 9th, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Hi everyone, just to weigh in with my unprofessional opinion. I think everyone (no matter how minor..if such a thing exists dealing with the heart) should have some type of rehab. In my case I didn’t, but I have made my own program. (walking which I increase weekly, diet, education) I wasn’t offered a program, but being a veteran of shoulder surgery, spine surgery, and a couple of others. I know the importance of re-hab. Funny with these other surgery’s I was offered PT, but nothing with the heart. 5 weeks post op and walking around 2-4 miles a day…including one very steep hill. A professional program with a qualified medical staff to me only makes sense. I totally agree with what SPIKE has commented at the beginning of this thread…

Paige says on May 11th, 2009 at 1:09 pm

To Bonnie Neufeld,

I found out about my surgery and read Adam’s book which gave me concern but not fear. Now I’m reading the book again 9 weeks after aortic valve replacement and going “Holy cow! I should have read this book more intensely.” And yes, I have a bovine valve. There is so much information in the book that I did not get from my cardiologist or my surgeon. When I visit both this week, I intend to take the book and strongly suggest that they use it as a resource for their patients. Best wishes to you and thank you, Adam!

jeff stoveken says on May 24th, 2009 at 8:15 am

to bonnie, i agree with you ! i am glad i read the book after my surgery. my wife got it for me right after my surgery and she wished she had gotten it sooner. as for me, i really didnt want to know the gritty details .its kind of like getting hurt ,for example : if you cut your finger on a knife by accident,it hurts bleeds etc. but you deal with it. but if you had taken a knife to do it on purpose, you would foresee how it would feel and probably wouldnt do it. thats how i deal with things like that otherwise i wouldve been ten times more nervous about surgery.i give my wife credit because she researched all about it and didnt relay it all to me,only what i needed to know.i found adams book a great help, but used it for my recovery rather than research before the fact.its an invaluable resource and people will use it how each one needs to. your question about reading it before or after is a very good one ! by the way,have you had your surgery yet? any questions or comments feel free, my email is jeffstoveken@yahoo.com thanks,jeff

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