Traveling After Heart Valve Repair or Replacement Surgery
After you have recovered from heart valve repair or replacement surgery, you should be able to travel. Planning in advance and communicating with your doctor, your loved ones and travel companions can allow you to enjoy your trip with confidence.
First, consult with your doctor
It is important to notify your doctor about your plans. He or she can:
- Help you find a doctor to connect with at your destination, just in case you need care while you are away from home; this is especially important if you will be away for more than a month
- Help you think through how to manage any possible issues
- Plan for the right level or exercise or activity while you are away
- Help you determine if a destination harbors bacteria and other microbes that could be dangerous for your heart
Rely on self-testing
Many people taking anticoagulant medication are able to safely and effectively use self-testing devices while traveling. Check with your doctor to see if self-testing is an option for you (it is only available with a prescription and does not replace the need for regular follow-up visits with your doctor).
Learn more about self-testing if you take anticoagulation medication.
What to bring with you
In addition to following recommendations from your doctor:
- Pack enough medication to last for the entire trip plus enough for an extra week in case your trip is extended or lasts longer than expected. If traveling by plane, pack your medication in your carry-on, in case of lost luggage.
- Bring a photocopy of the prescriptions your doctor wrote, and any insurance or pharmacy information related to your prescriptions, just in case you need to get prescriptions filled while away.
- Carry your patient device (ID) card wherever you go.
- Keep your doctor’s contact information with you at all times in case you need to contact him or her with a question or concern.
Wear a medical alert bracelet
In an emergency situation, an identification bracelet or necklace can alert hospital personnel to your specific medical needs. If you are interested in registering for such a service, your physician can give you information on the agencies and services available. Or you can purchase a medical identification bracelet or necklace from a jeweler or pharmacy. One of the best-known bracelets comes from MedicAlert®‡. You can reach MedicAlert in the United States at +1-800-432-5378 or visit medicalert.org.
Airport metal detectors
The amount of metal used in mechanical and tissue heart valves and heart valve rings is very small. It is usually not enough to set off a metal detector. Walk through the system at your normal walking rate. If your heart valve sets off the metal detector, simply show security personnel your patient device ID card. Passing through a metal detector will not affect your heart valve.