3 Questions to Ask Before You Have Heart Surgery
The Father The Son and The Holy Spirit (Smile)
Do I Really Need This Operation?
When your cardiologist says you need heart surgery, you might hesitate to question his or her judgment. But asking tough questions is important because the stakes are so high.
The first thing to know is that there may be more time than you realize to make a decision. Unless you’ve just had life-threatening symptoms, heart surgery rarely needs to be done immediately. So you have time to think through options and make informed choices.
And with heart disease, you often do have choices. For example, heart disease symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath can sometimes be treated not just through bypass surgery but also with a less invasive procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI).
That technique involves inflating a tiny balloon in a clogged artery to widen the blockage, often leaving a metal stent behind to prop it open. In other cases, heart disease can be controlled with a combination of blood pressure, cholesterol, and other drugs. Talk with your doctors, your cardiologist as well as your surgeon—about those options.
Also be sure to consider how the surgery will affect your quality of life. For example, possible extending life by 20 years with bypass surgery might be less important to someone in their 80s than to a younger person. An older person might opt for the easier recovery of angioplasty or even just stick with meds. “The decision is rarely black and white”.
How Do I Choose a Hospital and Surgeon?
First Check the hospital ratings. Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) the professional group that represent heart surgeons.
If a hospital you’re considering has a low rating, ask your surgeon why, how well it did in the past, and what it’s doing now to improve.
And if the hospital doesn’t appear in the rating, ask what percentage of its patients die within 30 days of the surgery or have serious complications, such as developing a chest infection. If he or she won’t share that information, consider looking for another hospital and another surgeon.
Unless your procedure is urgent, try to visit at least two hospitals and meet with more than one surgeon before you make up your mind.
How to find the best possible Surgeon? Try ratings of surgical groups at CR.org
For a special surgeon, ask directly about his or her mortality and complication rates. Also ask about experience. While there’s no set number of procedures a surgeon should have done, you don’t want to be among the first.
If a doctor will not answer these questions, that’s a red flag.
What Happens After the Procedure?
Knowing what to expect after surgery can make your recovery go more smoothly. Most patients stay in the ICU for one night. As you’re emerging from anesthesia, you might be given a sedative so that you’re calm when you fully awaken and while the staff removes your breathing tube, which can be unsettling.
Expect the first few days to be uncomfortable. Even breathing can hurt when you have temporary drainage tubes in your chest and your surgical wound is healing. But within the first 24 hours, hospital staff will encourage you to get up and move around. And after four or five days, most patients are ready to go home.
Be sure that you leave the hospital with prescriptions for all of the medications you’ll need, often including low-dose aspirin to prevent blood clots, a blood-pressure drug, and a cholesterol-lowering statin drug, all of which you’ll probably take indefinitely.
Over the next six to eight weeks, you’ll be asked to gradually increase how much you walk each day until you’re strong enough to begin cardiac rehab.
These carefully supervised exercise programs, which are designed to rebuild muscle strength and aerobic fitness, have been found to extend lives after bypass surgery.