Before having an aortic valve replacement, you will attend a pre-admission clinic where you will be seen by a member of the team who will be looking after you in hospital.
At the clinic, you will have a physical examination and be asked for details of your medical history. Any investigations and tests that you need will be arranged, for example, a blood test or an X-ray. This is a good time to ask questions about the procedure, although you can discuss your concerns with your doctor at any time.
You will be asked if you are taking any tablets or other types of medication. These might be prescribed by your GP, or bought over-the-counter (OTC) in a pharmacy. It helps if you bring details with you about any medication that you are taking - for example, by bringing the packaging with you.
You will be asked about any previous anaesthetics (painkilling medication) that you have had, and whether you had any problems or side effects with these, such as nausea. You will also be asked whether you are allergic to anything in order to stop you having an allergic reaction to any medication that you might need.
You will be asked about your teeth, including whether you wear dentures, have caps, or a plate. This is because during the operation you will need to have a breathing tube inserted into your throat to help you breathe, and having loose teeth could be dangerous.
Preparing for hospital
Before you go into hospital for your operation, you may find the following checklist useful.
Do your homework - find out as much as you can about what is involved in your operation. Your hospital may provide written information or have a video about the procedure. You can also ask your doctor any questions that you have.
Ask your GP to check that any other medical problems are under control, such as high blood pressure (hypertension).
Arrange transport - arrange for someone, such as a friend or relative, to take you to and from the hospital, or book a taxi.
Prepare your home - before going into hospital for your operation, put items such as your television remote control, radio, telephone, medications, tissues, address book, and a glass on a table next to where you will spend most of your time when you return home.
Stock up - get in a stock of food that is easy to prepare, such as frozen ready meals, tin foods, and staples, such as rice and pasta. You could also prepare your own dishes and freeze them so that you can use them during your recovery.
Clean up - before going into hospital, take bath, or shower, wash your hair, and cut your nails. Also, put on freshly washed clothes. This will prevent you taking unwanted bacteria into hospital with you which could complicate your care.
Arrange help - ask a friend, or relative, to help you at home for a week or two after you come out of hospital.
Check the hospital's advice about taking the pill, or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - if you are advised to carry on taking these, make sure that you have some with you at the hospital and some at home.
Check whether you can eat anything before your operation - most anaesthetics are safer if your stomach is empty, so you will normally have to stop eating several hours before your operation. This should be made clear during your pre-admission checks.
Preparing for treatment
Your surgeon will discuss how you should prepare for treatment with you. Their advice may include:
Stop smoking - smoking increases your risk of developing a chest infection and can delay healing, as well as increasing your risk of getting blood clots.
Watch your weight - if you are overweight, your surgeon will usually advise you to lose weight. As strenuous exercise could be dangerous, you will need to do this by dieting. Your GP will be able to advise you about the best way to lose weight.
After your operation, exercise gently - staying active can help your recovery, but it is important not to overdo it. Light walking on flat ground should be fine. Your GP, or heart surgeon, will be able to advise you about how much you can safely do.
Think positive - a positive mental outlook can help you to deal with the stress of surgery and aid your recovery.
See your dentist - having healthy teeth and gums reduces your risk of infection. Bacteria from decayed teeth, or gum disease, can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream, which can cause complications after your operation.
The aortic valve is the valve that controls the flow of blood out of the left ventricle (chamber) of the heart, to the aorta (the body's main artery).
An X-ray is an imaging technique that uses high-energy radiation to show up abnormalities in bones and certain body tissue, such as breast tissue.
Nausea is when you feel like you are going to be sick.