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The heart – the most vital organ of the body responsible for pumping blood and oxygen throughout the body enabling proper functioning of the organs – is also very fragile and could need some repairing or resurrection in some cases depending on the situation.  A person diagnosed with a heart disease – such as coronary artery disease, heart valve disease, mitral valve disease, or tricuspid valve disease – would require a cardiac surgery given all other methods including medication have failed to provide benefits.

Procedure of a cardiac surgery

As per the traditional method, a cardiac surgery involves opening the chest by dividing the chest bone, allowing the surgeon to operate on the heart as per the patient’s condition. During this time, the heart is connected to a heart-lung machine that substitutes the heart functioning. Post a successful procedure, the heart starts beating and functioning on its own and the incision in the chest is sealed which almost takes 6-8 weeks to recover. The sternal wires used to bind the chest bones are left to dissolve eventually, staples made are removed between 7-14 days after surgery, and the glue goes off ultimately on its own. Further, you can check with the doctor for the procedure proposed, its risks and benefits, and prepare yourself for it.

Length of a typical cardiac surgery and risks

The length of a cardiac surgery depends on the patient’s condition and circumstances of operation. Typically, a cardiac surgery takes at the least 4-5 hours including 60 minutes of preparing for the surgery. While risks of a cardiac surgery are different in each case and subjective to a patient, even then some patients might not experience any of these risks listed below:

  • Infection
  • Anxiety
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and Nausea
  • Fever
  • Blood loss
  • Blood clot
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Heart attack or stroke

These risks will depend on the condition of the patient and one must check with the doctor before arriving at conclusions.

Preparing for the cardiac surgery

Once a heart disease or a demand/need of an operation arises, consult your doctor and discuss all possible options. After serious discussions, have a plan ready with the surgery hospital, time, date, recovery period, management, and more.

More than that, you need to do the needful for a successful cardiac surgery:

  • Pre operative testing: The surgeon will ask for a couple of tests to be conducted before the cardiac surgery. These tests may include carotid ultrasound, chest x-ray, EKG, blood work, dental clearance, etc.
  • Medications: There might be certain regular medications that would hamper the surgery and create complications. Hence, it is best to consult the surgeon about any on-going treatment or medications. Inform the doctor about any supplements or allergies you have.
  • Blood requirements: Though it is the responsibility of the hospital holding the surgery, it is still best to have a back-up of matching blood handy because loss of blood or anaemia is quite common after a cardiac surgery.
  • Check the vitals: Before undergoing the surgery, ensure your vitals including blood pressure, cholesterol, pulse, etc. are monitored and stable.
  • Family information: Also keep all family history ready including hereditary diseases, current situations, history of illness, and heart disease.
  • Check medical documents and insurance: Since a cardiac surgery is a full-fledged operation, it is best to cover it in your insurance. Thus, always be updated about your health insurance, its coverage, premiums, etc. More so, the medical documents such as consent, history, etc. should be properly submitted.
  • Mental motivation: The most important preparation is to mentally train yourself to get through this with hope and faith. Trust the process and do not give up easily. It is important to be perfectly ready for the operation to succeed.

Additionally it is critical to quit smoking or drugs if in case. Any negligence could result in serious damage which could even be fatal.

Packing your bag

A day before the surgery, pack your bags and prepare for the days to come. Keep all essentials (toiletries, towels, entertainment, medications, etc.) that you might need in the hospital; also check with your doctor for any specific item needs or any special care to be ensured.

Post-operative care

You might have to stay for a couple of days in the hospital depending on the type and intensity of the cardiac surgery. Make sure you take proper care including your medications, healthy recommended diet, rest, get all tests done and also have family and friends for support.

Further, any cardiac surgery demands to be followed with certain lifestyle amendments – including healthy eating, proper weight, balanced nutrition, no smoking or drugs, regular heath check-ups, and regular physical exercise – to ensure there is no revival or worsening of the situation. Also, it is always good to consult your doctor for any issues you are facing after a cardiac surgery.

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