Total Artificial Heart Living With
Your recovery will continue after you leave the hospital. Over time, you will need to slowly increase your activity level, protect and care for your total artificial heart, eat well, and exercise.
After total artificial heart surgery you will be able to do more activities than before. The driver that controls and powers the total artificial heart is portable, which will allow you to get out of bed, get dressed, and move around the house. It may even be possible to drive and do other activities outside. Talk to your healthcare provider about the level of activity that is safe for you.
You will need to see your provider regularly to monitor your recovery and take steps to prevent another heart problem.
- Schedule regular checkups. Checkups with your provider or surgeon are an essential part of your ongoing care after heart surgery. During these visits, you may have blood tests or heart tests such as an electrocardiogram (EKG), echocardiography, or a stress test. These tests will show how your heart is working after the surgery.
- Take your medicine as prescribed. You will need to take anticlotting medicine to prevent dangerous blood clots as long as you have a total artificial heart. 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 heart-healthy lifestyle changes. Your provider may recommend lifestyle changes to help you stay healthy. For example, you may be advised to choose heart-healthy foods, be physically active (when it is safe to do so), manage stress, and get enough good quality sleep.
- Learn more about how to protect your heart. Your provider may refer you to cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program for people recovering from heart problems. It usually includes exercise training, education on heart-healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you recover. Your provider can help you find a cardiac rehabilitation program near your home.
Your healthcare provider will also watch you closely for the possibility of complications that can develop after surgery. This includes the following conditions:
Protect and care for your total artificial heart
The total artificial heart may not always work the way it should. The device may not have the correct pumping action, the power source may fail, or parts may stop working well. Your healthcare provider will explain how to troubleshoot the total artificial heart, change or charge the portable device’s batteries, and know what to do if something goes wrong.
Your healthcare provider will give you tips to protect and care for your device. Here are some common ones:
- Protect yourself from infection. A total artificial heart attaches to a power source outside the body through holes in the stomach area. These holes can increase the risk of bacteria getting in and causing an infection. Your provider may recommend checking your temperature as part of routine care.
- Keep the tubes into the body dry. There may be special steps to follow before bathing, showering, or swimming.
- Avoid overheating the artificial heart driver. Activities like steam baths and dry saunas can cause the driver to overheat.
- Be aware of device updates and recalls. Download the product manual from the manufacturer and visit the FDA’s Medical Device Recalls to learn about any recalls for these devices or their components.
Waiting for a heart transplant
People on a waiting list for a heart transplant will be in close contact with the transplant center. The transplant center staff will provide information about next steps if a possible match is found. You will also find out how quickly you will need to get to the hospital if a donor heart becomes available.
Getting a total artificial heart may cause fear, anxiety, and stress. If you are waiting for a heart transplant, it is common to worry that the total artificial heart may not keep you alive long enough to get a new heart. That can lead to feelings of overwhelm or depression.
These feelings are common after major heart surgery. Talk with your healthcare provider about these feelings. They may recommend talking to a professional counselor, too. Your provider may also recommend medicines or other treatments for depression or anxiety to help improve your quality of life.
Support from family and friends can also help relieve stress and anxiety. Talk to your loved ones about how you feel and how they can help you.