What to Expect After LVAD Implant Surgery
Recovering and getting back to routine daily activities after your LVAD surgery is a gradual process. Reading about other patients’ post-op experiences in the Community Forums may be helpful. Remember that many factors figure into recovery and every hospital follows different procedures. There’s no fixed timeline, and every patient is different. So your experience may be very different from another patient’s experience.
The goal of recovery, however, is always the same: to get you back home, with the best possible quality of life. It may not always be easy, and there may be good days and bad days. But with the support of your medical team and your family and loved ones, you can do it.
Immediately After the Surgery
Right after your LVAD implantation surgery, you’ll be moved to the intensive care unit (ICU) where you’ll stay for several days. During this time, you’ll be given fluids and medications through an intravenous (IV) line, and will need to stay connected to a ventilator until you’re able to breathe on your own. You’ll also have a tube in your bladder (a catheter) to drain your urine and tubes in your chest to drain fluid and blood.
Coming Off the Ventilator
When your breathing tube is removed, you’ll need to cough frequently, breathe deeply and use an incentive spirometer at regular intervals. It’s very important that you follow your nurse’s and respiratory therapist’s instructions, to prevent serious respiratory complications like pneumonia.
Recovering and Getting Ready for Life With Your LVAD
After your stay in the ICU, you’ll be moved to a cardiac step-down unit for the remainder of your recovery. It’s during this phase that nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists will help you gradually become more active and rebuild your strength, function, and independence. Read more about the next steps of recovery.
At this point you and your caregiver(s) will also begin your LVAD training (if it hasn’t already started). This is when, with the support of your medical team, you’ll learn the ins and outs of your LVAD equipment, and how to change the dressings around the driveline exit site.
While you're recovering in the hospital, it can be helpful to have friends and family visit—both to keep your spirits up and so they can learn more about your LVAD and how it works.