Patients' Resources

Heart attack is the second most common cause of death in Singapore, and the third most common reason for hospital admission.

According to the Ministry of Health, 261 patients were admitted to the National Heart Centre for open heart surgery (coronary artery bypass graft) from 1 May 2014 to 30 April 2015. 67 patients were also admitted for the same procedure during the same period at the National University Hospital.

Open heart surgery is the operation performed to help patients prevent a heart attack or repeat heart attacks and its accompanying complications. The most common type of open heart surgery is CABG.

If you have been examined to show symptoms of coronary artery disease, which, if left untreated, can lead to heart attack, your cardiologist may recommend medication or open heart surgery to flush out blockages in your artery.

If you have not had an open heart surgery before, it is normal for you to have questions about its safety and effectiveness. Here are three factors that make you an ideal candidate for open heart surgery and why it’s important for you to understand the risk, procedure and recovery from the operation.

Why Am I A Candidate For Open Heart Surgery?

Your cardiologist will explain that the severity of your coronary artery disease warrants the need for open heart surgery. If your blocked artery cannot be treated with medication alone, then your cardiologist may recommend open heart surgery to bypass your blocked artery with a healthy artery. This will allow blood to flow back to your heart, prolonging and improving the quality of your life.

Your cardiologist will assess if you are an ideal candidate for open heart surgery based on the following criteria:

  1. Good physical condition. Notwithstanding your heart condition, your cardiologist will assess if you are in good physical condition to survive during and after the operation. Remember, open heart surgery will not cure your heart condition; it will only remove a valve or artery in your heart that is no longer functioning properly. If, after the surgery, you do not live a heart-healthy lifestyle, then the chances of your artery getting blocked again is high. Commit to physical exercise, keeping a healthy weight, and eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet and you can expect to live longer and better after your open heart surgery.
  1. Post-operation care. Do you have a caregiver who will take good care of you after the operation? Post-operation care is highly important in determining the success of your open heart surgery. Remember, recovery from open heart surgery takes anywhere from 5-24 weeks. During which time, you are discouraged from carrying out physical activities which may strain your chest, cause the incision to open, and lead to a host of complications.
  1. Smoking Cessation. Your cardiologist will advise you to quit smoking and live a healthy lifestyle. Patients who had a heart bypass have seen the benefits of the graft for many years in their lives, for as long as they stopped unhealthy habits like smoking.

Open Heart Surgery: Risks, Procedure and Recovery

After determining that you are an ideal candidate for open heart surgery, you may want to prepare yourself for the operation by understanding its risks, procedure and recovery.

Risks

Complications that may arise from an open heart surgery include:

  • Arrhythmia
  • Chest pain
  • Bleeding
  • Heart attack due to blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Memory loss
  • Organ failure
  • Difficulty breathing

The key to lowering the risk of complications lies in planning the surgery carefully.

Before the surgery, have an honest conversation with your doctor about medications that you are taking which may complicate the surgery. These include medications for diabetes and kidney disorders and emphysema.

Your cardiac surgeon will conduct a thorough assessment of your health condition and your readiness to undergo the procedure at minimal if no risk.

Procedure

As the name suggests, an open heart surgery is an operation whereby the cardiac surgeon makes a cut or incision on your chest to expose your heart. The surgeon will then remove the blocked or damaged artery and replace it with a healthy artery, which he gets from another part of your body, usually the leg or inside your chest wall.

Throughout the procedure, you will be hooked to a heart-lung machine which will supply oxygenated blood to your body in the meantime that your surgeon is operating on your heart.

After the procedure, you will be unhooked from the heart-lung machine, and the surgeon will observe if the graft was successful and your new artery is working to restore the blood flow to your heart. After a successful bypass, the surgeon will close the incision. You will be taken to intensive care where your vital signs will be monitored until you show signs of good recovery.

Recovery

Finally, your recovery from open heart surgery may take anywhere from 6 days to 6 months. After you are stable, you can be discharged from the hospital and will be given home care instructions, which include caring for your incision, getting plenty of rest and not straining yourself with physical activities.

Make sure to have a dedicated caregiver at your side during the crucial weeks that follow. If you develop symptoms of possible complications, such as fever, severe chest pain, bleeding in the area of the incision, irregular or rapid heartbeat, call your doctor immediately.

Remember, an open heart surgery may you give you a second chance to live a better life. Do your part by living a healthy lifestyle to keep your heart ticking for a longer time.

 

References:

https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/costs_and_financing/HospitalBillSize/heart_surgery_coronaryarterybypassgraftwithoutangiography.html

http://www.simplehand.org/heart-surgery/

http://www.healthline.com/health/open-heart-surgery#AfterSurgery6