Total Artificial Heart Recovering From Surgery
Your hospital stay after surgery could last a month or more. Recovery time after surgery for total artificial heart (TAH) will depend a lot on your health before the surgery.
Right after surgery, you will be moved to the hospital’s intensive care unit. You may still need a ventilator to help you breathe. For a while, you may receive fluids and nutrition through a feeding tube or an intravenous (IV) line in your arm. Your healthcare team will monitor another IV line in your neck or your leg to see how the TAH is working. You will also have a tube inserted into your urinary tract to drain urine and to evaluate how your kidneys are working.
After a few days or more, you will be moved to a regular hospital room. Nurses who have experience with TAHs and similar devices will take care of you. The nurses will help you sit, get out of bed, and walk around. Most patients can get up and move around after two weeks. Nurses and physical therapists will help you gain your strength by slowly going back to activity.
Once you become stronger, your healthcare team will remove your feeding, IV, and urine tubes. You will be able to begin eating regular food, go to the bathroom on your own, and take a shower. You will also learn how to care for your TAH at home.
During your recovery time in the hospital, you may enjoy visits from family or friends. Your family or friends can also learn how to care for the TAH so that they can help you when you go home.
Possible surgery-related complications
After getting a TAH, as the case after any surgery, possible complications such as blood clots, bleeding, or infection, can develop.
Blood may clot more easily because of its contact with the man-made parts of the TAH. Blood clots can block blood vessels that deliver oxygen to important organs in your body. They can cause severe complications such as a stroke; a pulmonary embolism, which is a type of venous thromboembolism; or death. For this reason, you need to take anticlotting medicine as long as you have a TAH.
The surgery to connect a TAH to your heart is very complex. Bleeding can occur in your chest during and after the surgery. Anticlotting medicine also raises your risk of bleeding because it thins your blood.
After surgery, you will be at a higher risk for infection, so your doctor may give you medicine to lower this risk. Your healthcare team will watch you closely for fever or other signs of infection.
During the TAH surgery, as in any major surgery, there is a risk of dying. There is also a risk that your body may respond poorly to the medicine used to put you to sleep during the surgery.
Read Living With to learn about possible complications of living with a TAH.