A heart surgery can be a stressful situation for everyone. Good knowledge regarding your heart’s condition, what to expect from the procedure, lowering risks of the surgery, and aftercare can help alleviate your fear.
This article explains 7 essential things that you should know before you proceed with your heart surgery.
1. What is Heart bypass surgery?
Heart bypass surgery or coronary artery bypass surgery is performed to bypass one or more damaged or blocked arteries in your heart with a blood vessel graft to restore normal blood flow to the heart. It aims to create a new pathway and divert the flow of blood around a blocked or damaged artery in your heart, thus improving blood flow to your heart muscle. The blood vessel graft used in the surgery is most often taken from your leg (saphenous), arm (radial) or chest (internal thoracic or internal mammary).
It is also known as coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) and is one of the most common types of heart surgeries done worldwide.
2. Why is it done?
This surgery is performed to relieve symptoms, such as chest pain, irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath, caused by the buildup of fatty deposits or plaque in your coronary arteries. Coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart and these fatty deposits can block your arteries, restricting smooth blood flow. It can also cause the formation of clots or thrombosis that may lead to a heart attack. Coronary artery disease can occur due to a diet high in saturated fats, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of heart disease.
3. How do you get ready for the procedure?
Your doctor is the best source of information. Talk with him about:
• Your disease
• Why you need to go for the surgical procedure
• Right time to go for the surgery
• What you can expect during and after the surgery
• Any medications you should avoid or any medications you need to take before the procedure
• Your allergies
• Family history
• Any other questions you may have about your surgery
Your surgeon will give you a specific set of instructions that will help you prepare for your surgery.
4. Things you should take care of before your surgery
Plan your surgery taking into account the time of your surgery, hospital stay and recovery time, so that it doesn’t affect your work. Stop taking any drugs without the consent of your doctor, especially aspirin as it has a blood-thinning effect that may cause bleeding complications. Also, check with your doctor before stopping any medication. Quit smoking at least two weeks before the surgery. Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and also delays recovery time. Go for a dental check up as certain oral bacteria can complicate the heart surgery. Get your blood pressure and diabetes checked to see if they are in the normal range.
5. Tests done a few days before the surgery
• Complete blood count (CBC): A low blood count can warn your doctor to prepare for a blood transfusion in advance.
• Prothrombin time (PT) and thromboplastin time (PTT) values: These blood tests measure your blood’s bleeding and clotting time. These tests show altered values in presence of any bleeding or clotting disorders or if you’re on blood-thinning medications like aspirin.
• Chest X-ray: To assess the size and shape of your heart and aorta.
• Cardiac catheterization: This test is used to identify the location of blockages in your coronary arteries that will help your doctor in planning your surgery.
• Other tests, such as kidney and liver function tests to determine the health of these organs.
6. Risks associated with a bypass surgery
• Wound infection: More common in obese and diabetic patients
• Breathing problems
• Injury to blood vessels and nerves
• Formation of blood clots
• Irregular heartbeat
• Kidney failure
• Heart attack or stroke
7. Recovery after your surgery
Bypass surgery requires you to stay for about a week in the hospital after the procedure for observation. Bypass surgery is an invasive procedure and may have a long recovery time. Normal recovery time ranges from four to six weeks and depends on your general health.
Take care of your incision wound and look out for any signs of redness, swelling or drainage from the wound. Your doctor may prescribe you pain medications, anti-arrhythmics, and anti-coagulants after the surgery. Avoid stress and any situation that may make you anxious. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, cut back on sugar, salt, and fats from your diet, avoid alcohol and quit smoking for a speedy recovery. Consult your doctor before resuming with your daily activities or going to work.
You must remember bypass surgery is not a procedure that cures the underlying heart disease. You need to make some lifestyle changes and follow the medications prescribed by your doctor to prevent another blockage.