“Can I Climb Stairs After Heart Surgery When I Return Home?” Asks Teri

By Adam Pick on December 6, 2010

I just received an excellent question from Teri about heart valve surgery recovery, climbing stairs and recliners.

Teri writes to me, “Hi Adam – I want to know if I can climb stairs after heart surgery – once I return from the hospital. Our bedroom is on the second floor. Is that too much to expect? I am ordering an electric easy chair and need to know if I should have it delivered down stairs or up stairs in our bedroom — which is also close to a full shower. I really appreciated the great information in your book! Teri”


Patient Climbing Stairs After Heart Surgery


To help Teri answer her question about climbing stairs after heart surgery, I contacted Dr. Paul Massimiano, heart surgeon, from Inova Heart & Vascular Institute, to get an expert opinion on this topic.

Dr. Massimiano shared with me, “Teri asks an excellent question. Once discharged from the hospital, most patients are able to climb a flight of stairs after surgery. This allows them to get to their bedroom — if it is on the second floor — and to resume a normal routine.”

In addition, Dr. Massimiano offered, “For the first week or two, it is a good idea to have someone with patients as they go down and climb stairs after heart surgery — to add support and confidence. Occasionally,  patients feel too fatigued to make the trip upstairs and are more comfortable sleeping in an easy chair on the first floor. They may also benefit from a nap in the afternoon and a reclining chair is the perfect place.”

In closing, Dr. Massimiano shared with me, “We encourage patients to return to their normal daily routine as soon as possible and to avoid buying or renting hospital beds that turns their home into a hospital setting. Although every patient is different and outcomes vary based on the procedure that is performed, a quick return to a normal environment is an important part of the healing process. Best wishes to Teri for a speedy recovery!”

Thanks to Teri for the great question! And, thanks to Dr. Massimiano for sharing his thoughts about whether-or-not patients should climb stairs after heart 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.

Robin Hirsch says on December 6th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I was out of bed 12 hours after surgery. The PT had me climbing stairs on day 2. I was home on day 4 and climbed stairs to my bedroom. Go slow, and listen to your body, but as soon as you are able…GET OUT OF BED!!!

shawn arnold says on December 6th, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I feel I was in pretty good shape before my valve replacement and wondered the same thing as my bedroom is upstairs. Right when I got home 4 days after surgery I looked at my wife and said I am going for it…and slowly made it up the 17 stairs to upstairs. I took lots of naps and slept in a recliner for two months but was walking over a mile each day within a week of being home. BTW- I was 51 at the time and that was 13 months ago. Doing better than ever now.

marcelle says on December 6th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I found that the hardest part about getting out of bed and making an effort to get in some walks was just getting out of bed and doing it! The initial effort was the hardest part, once I got moving I get LESS tired as I kept moving. Just moving around the house could be exhausting, but once I would get out of the house and start walking I gained momentum.

In the first 2 weeks I found the most exhausting thing to be taking a shower/bath. I installed a shower head on a long cord and put a soft mat in the tub so I could shower sitting down. Even then the effort of lifting my arms over my head to wash my hair really wore me out.

Paul says on December 6th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I can answer that question having just had my aortic valve replaced on 10/25/10. I have 15 steps to climb to my upstairs office. I did go up the stairs upon the 2nd day after discharge from the hospital. It was slow climb taking 3 rest periods along the way. Listen to your body. Now going into my 6 week of recuperating and the stairs are no longer a challenge.

Slow and steady is the key and be sure to continue using the breathing apparatus provided to you upon discharge.

One area that I was unprepared for was that I developed pleura effusion (fluid between my lings and chest wall) which made it very uncomfortable for me to breathe (trying to expand my lungs) My chest was tapped and 43 ounces of fluid was removed allowing me to expand my lungs and breathe normally. I stayed overnight in observation and the following morning some of the fluid had returned. I was given steroids for 5 days and upon having X-Rays my fluid was all but gone. Since then however some fluid has come back and this time I will be on steroids for 10 days to eliminate the inflammation.

I believe the problem experienced was that the surgeon had a hard time cutting through the sternum. The surgeon said to my wife it was like trying to break into a steel cage. I believe this is why I experienced pleura effusion.

If you experience shortness of breathe to the point you find it hard to expand your lungs have it checked out with your cardiologist followed by X-Rays.

Hope this helps!

Vivian says on December 6th, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I am in my mid-30s, and I live on the 2nd floor of a walk up (no elevator). If I planned to sleep in my bed (or even on my couch), I had no choice but to climb stairs! It sounded more daunting than it was. By the second week after being released from the hospital, I was climbing stairs without giving it a second thought.

Like a previous poster, the physical therapist also had me climb stairs. I think I did that three days after surgery. They gave me tips for climbing the stairs safely, and watched me as I tried climbing stairs for the first time after surgery. That gave me a lot of confidence to tackle stairs at home, and I would definitely request it before you leave the hospital.

Tim Mangum says on December 6th, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Marcelle, I think you are exactly right. The hardest thing after getting home was getting a shower. My first shower after getting home took around 35-45 minutes and I went right back to bed as soon as I was finished. I really wanted to go somewhere with my wife but my body had other ideas.

Teri, make sure that if you do decide to climb the stairs that you have someone close by in case there are problems. Since I don’t know the specifics of your valve selection, it is extremely important for a mechanical valve patient on warfarin to be careful to not fall and hit your head. I have been told numerous times by my local card and pharmacist that if I fall and hit my head to go to the ER immediately as there could be bleeding around my brain.

Pauline Chamberland says on December 6th, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Pauline say,

Once out of the hospital after six days and once home, at home was a little hard for me. I had my arotic valve changed with a piece of my arotic artery changed at the same time because my arotic artery was enlarged and dangerous. After 7 months of the surgery I am doing very good. The therapy helped me a lot. My recovery of my arotic heart and arotic artery surgery was all about listening to my Doctor’s advice. Small walks, little stairs climbing, no driving a vehicle for a month or so, and a lot of afternoon naps due to discomforts during the nights. A recliner is the best method for sleeping in the first few months. After 7 months I feel great. Thank you to those great Doctors who performed my surgery.

Jim Hilbe says on December 6th, 2010 at 7:02 pm


Greetings Adam & Friends,

My wife Betsey got a new aortic valve in July, 2009, at Cleveland Clinic. She was up and walking with assistance on day 2 from surgery, and discharged on day 7. We flew back to California on day 8. Anemia following major surgery is not uncommon, and she had anemia. She was totally unable to climb any stairs for a week after returning home. She began cardiac rehabilitation on day 30 and had 30 sessions. After that, she returned to the fitness club.

Jim Hilbe

Amy says on December 7th, 2010 at 8:15 am

I just had AVR surgery Nov 22. I came home a week later and I forgot and just climbed the stairs without a problem I am 45 and a little younger than most but…..I was worried. I am doing fine and just doing what I can and resting. It will amaze you the progress you will make 🙂

Mary Ferraro says on December 12th, 2010 at 12:04 am

It has been 2 years since my valve repair but I do remember practicing stairs with the physical therapist in the hospital. She also taught me how to get in and out of bed but that was tuff because it was uncomfortable to lift my upper body off the bed. I am happy that my sister was so kind as to rent a hospital bed for me. It was a great surprise and really helped me to be more comfortable. Going up and down stairs was not a problem after about the first 5 or 6 days after the operation but getting into and out of bed was tuff for me for a few weeks. Stay positive and focus on the the little ways that you actually feel better every day. The walking really helps you feel stronger faster.

Sue says on December 25th, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Do you have any advice regarding recliners? There is a vast price difference and I am at sea. My surgery was three weeks ago and I am 5’5″.

Sue says on December 25th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

These comments are valuable, especially Marcelle’s. I am seeking advice about purchasing a recliner here in Los Angeles. There is a bewildering choice on the internet.

SHARON B says on April 9th, 2014 at 3:54 pm

a lifter recliner would be the best. they lift you up to standing position. Had one for my husband after his stroke. It also has a remote to recline the chair too.

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