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Tags: heart surgery | risks | questions | doctor

Heart Surgery Risks: Questions to Ask Your Doctor

By    |   Sunday, 19 October 2014 11:38 AM

Heart surgery is often a life-saving medical procedure, but as with any procedure it also has risks. 

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute lists the following as possible risks of heart surgery:

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• Bleeding

• Infection, fever, swelling, and other signs of inflammation

• A reaction to the medicine used to make you sleep during the surgery

• Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)

• Damage to tissues in the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs

• Stroke, which may cause short-term or permanent damage

• Death (Heart surgery is more likely to be life-threatening in people who are very sick before the surgery)

In addition, some people may struggle with memory loss and other issues, such as difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, the NHLBI said.

Looking at that list of risks associated with heart surgeries can be daunting for patients facing those procedures.

Here are 11 questions to ask your cardiologist or heart surgeon about the procedure to help know what could happen in your situation:

*Can you explain exactly what is wrong and what the surgery will do to fix it? Make sure you thoroughly understand what the problem is, ask every question you have and don’t worry about asking your doctor to draw diagrams, if necessary.

*What are the benefits to having this surgery? It is important to determine the necessity for the surgery and whether additional surgeries might be necessary. 

"Knowing the possibilities of both the short-term and long-term outcomes allows you to make a more informed decision and have more realistic expectations," CNN said.

*Are their alternatives surgeries or other treatment options? Would a lifestyle change, for instance, make the surgery unnecessary? Such questions, CNN said, can help patients determine if the surgical procedure is needed immediately, or if other options could mitigate the health problem.

*Can you outline each treatment option and the risks and benefits?

*Why are you recommending this treatment over others? This question comes from the Women’s Heart Foundation, which offers a detailed list of questions to ask before heart surgery.

*What lifestyle changes will I need to make after the surgery and what resources will help me with those?

*Do I have time to put my affairs in order before the surgery, and do I need an Advance Directive? Caring Connections maintains files of Advance Directives for each state.

*What will the procedure cost? CNN said surgery costs are typically broken into three parts, including the surgeon’s fee, hospital or surgical center fees, and other professional services.

*What can I expect from recovery? Factors such as age, health, and type of procedure will affect recovery. Ask your doctor what equipment or tools you may need during the recovery process, such as walkers or items you may need at home.

*How many of these surgeries have you done and how many do you do each year? Columbia University Medical Center's Department of Surgery said this is an "essential" question, as practice makes perfect.

"Many procedures require advanced skill levels, such as aortic valve repair," CUMC said. "It is necessary to have performed at least 50 valve repairs in order to develop a comfort level in assessing and reproducibly repairing the aortic valve. I would not advise a patient to undergo aortic valve repair with a surgeon who had performed less than 50 repairs. The same holds for endovascular stent graft repair. The aorta is a specialized structure and is best repaired by surgeons who specialize in this advanced type of surgery."

This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.

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Heart surgery is often a life-saving medical procedure, but as with any procedure it also has risks.
heart surgery, risks, questions, doctor
Sunday, 19 October 2014 11:38 AM
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