Total Artificial Heart Living With
Your recovery will continue after you go home. Once you are at home, you will need to slowly increase your activity level, protect and care for your total artificial heart (TAH), eat well, and exercise.
After TAH surgery, you will likely be able to do more activities than you could before the surgery. You can carry the driver that controls and powers your TAH with you, so you probably will be able to get out of bed, get dressed, and move around the house. You may even be able to drive and do other activities outside your house. Your healthcare team will advise you on the level of activity that is safe for you.
Protect and care for your TAH
The TAH may not always work the way it should. Your healthcare team will explain how to troubleshoot your TAH, change or charge the portable device’s batteries, and know what to do if something goes wrong. The device may not have the correct pumping action, the power source may fail, or parts may stop working well.
A TAH attaches to a power source outside your body through holes in your stomach area. These holes increase the risk of bacteria getting in and causing an infection. Your doctor may tell you how often to check your temperature as part of your routine care. You may also need to take special steps before you bathe, shower, or swim. Your healthcare team will explain how to make sure that the tubes going into your stomach area do not get wet. They also will recommend that you avoid steam baths and dry saunas, which can overheat the TAH driver.
If you have a TAH, you may want to download the product manual from the manufacturer site and visit Medical Device Recalls to learn about FDA recalls for these devices and their components.
Eat heart-healthy foods and get physical activity
While you recover from TAH surgery, it is important that you eat a balanced diet. Talk with your healthcare team about following a proper eating plan for recovery. Read about heart-healthy eating.
Your healthcare team may recommend a supervised physical activity program. Physical activity can give your body the strength that it needs to recover. During the months or years before surgery when your heart was not working well, the muscles in your body may have weakened. Building up the muscles again will allow you to do more activities and feel less tired.
You will have regular checkups with your healthcare team to see how you are doing and make sure that your TAH is working well. There is a chance you may need surgery again.
The medical team will also watch you closely for the possibility of complications that can develop as you recover from the surgery. This includes the following conditions:
You will need to take anticlotting medicine to prevent dangerous blood clots as long as you have a TAH. Regular blood tests will help determine the correct dose. You also will need to take medicine to try to prevent infections. Your doctor may tell you how often to check your temperature to make sure you do not have a fever, which can be a warning sign of infection.
Make sure to take all your medicines as prescribed and report any side effects to your doctor.
Waiting for a heart transplant
If you are on the waiting list for a heart transplant, you will likely be in close contact with the transplant center. The transplant center staff will provide you with information about next steps if they find a possible match. They will also tell you how quickly you need to get to the hospital if a donor heart becomes available.
Getting a TAH may cause fear, anxiety, and stress. If you are waiting for a heart transplant, you may worry that the TAH will not keep you alive long enough to get a new heart. You may feel overwhelmed or depressed.
These feelings are common for someone going through major heart surgery. Talk with your healthcare team about how you feel. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you are depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments for depression or anxiety that can improve your quality of life.
Support from family and friends can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.