Category(s): Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery
Cardiovascular surgery is a group of non-elective medical procedures performed on the heart or blood vessels. Most often they are interventions needed to treat the complications of heart disease. Heart disease can result in (1) blockage of the major blood vessels of the heart leading to a heart attack (2) an aneurysm which is a weakening of the artery (3) the arteries to the brain become narrowed or blocked resulting in a stroke and (4) the heart which can no longer pump enough blood adequately to the body eventually ends in heart failure. Although heart valve defects can be congenital (formed before birth), dysfunction of a heart valve can be acquired due to conditions such as infection or hypertension.
Before you proceed with any cardiac procedure it is important that you consider the following issues:
• Expectations: Each patient will respond differently to surgery; however it's normal to experience a change in appetite, have difficulty sleeping, deal with constipation, endure occasional swelling, go through mood swings, notice an occasional clicking noise or sensation in your chest or have muscle pain or tightness in your shoulders and upper back. Most of these symptoms will subside with time. Patient's quality of life after surgery depends on their commitment to change habits, their positive outlook and having realistic expectations.
• Risks: Surgical complications may include: reaction to anesthesia, abnormal bleeding during procedure, developing blood clots, infection, numbness or tingling at incision site, scarring, abnormal heart rhythms, damage to the heart tissue or other vital organs and, in severe cases, death. Swelling and bruising is considered normal.
• Recovery: Typically, the first phase of recovery will last 4-8 weeks. This includes physical recovery as well as adapting to how the changes can affect your personal and professional life. You must make serious life style changes such as reducing daily stress, routine exercise and a heart healthy diet.
• Expense: Cardiac surgery may be covered by many healthcare plans. The costs vary depending upon the procedure and additional funds may be needed for your co-pay or to be used for follow up care and corrective procedures.
• Psychological changes: Many individuals experience a period of adjustment after heart surgery. One often faces many emotions following a cardiac procedure which is the result of coming to terms with a potentially life threatening illness. It is important to acknowledge those feelings by discussing them with your family and your doctor.
After determining the need for cardiac surgery, the next step should be to find a surgeon and schedule a consultation. Have a list of topics ready including questions about the surgery, the surgeon's experience with the desired procedure and resulting desires/expectations. Working closely with your surgeon throughout the process will improve the chance of satisfaction with the results of your procedure(s).