Questions to ask before heart surgery

October 24, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Sometimes heart surgery follows an ambulance trip to the emergency department for fast-tracked diagnostic testing and a quick transfer to the operating room. In these situations, the patient and their family members may have time to ask only a few critical questions before surgery.

But in other cases, the heart problem is identified over a longer period of time, through steps that likely include a routine physical and testing, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG). The problem may be less urgent, giving the patient some time to learn about their condition and treatment options.

If you’re this patient, you don’t want to be in bed the night before your procedure with questions spinning through your mind: Is this really my best treatment option? How will I feel after the operation? To help tame those butterflies, prepare your questions and discuss them with your cardiologist and heart surgeon as far in advance of your surgery as possible.

Here are sample questions to raise with your doctor that apply to just about any type of cardiac surgery, whether minimally invasive or open heart:

Questions before scheduling surgery:

  • Why is this procedure my best treatment option?
  • What are the benefits and risks?
  • Does my health history raise any special concerns about complications?
  • What is the success rate of this procedure?
  • If I didn’t have the surgery, is it likely I will stay the same or get worse?
  • How soon do I need to have the procedure?

After agreeing to surgery:

  • Are there things I should do to prepare for surgery?
  • What will happen in the operating room?
  • Will a heart-lung machine be used or will my heart be beating on its own?
  • Is there a minimally invasive option for me (if an open procedure has been recommended)?
  • How long do you expect the surgery to last?
  • Will I need blood transfusions?
  • Can I donate my own blood?
  • How large will my incision(s) be?

After surgery:

  • What is it like in the cardiac intensive care unit?
  • How much pain should I expect and how will it be managed?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • How much help will I need after discharge?
  • Will I be on medications after the surgery and, if so, for how long?
  • When will I start cardiac rehab and how much time will it require?
  • How long before I can drive, return to work?
  • Is help available with any necessary lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking?

Learn more about cardiac services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

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