Understanding When Heart Disease Requires Surgery

In addition to joint replacement and broken bone repair, heart surgery is one of the most common medical procedures performed each year. From heart attack and heart failure to arrhythmia and valve complications, part of monitoring heart health, though, is recognizing common heart conditions and understanding when surgery becomes necessary. Dr. Michael Bauer and Dr. Frederick Meadors, cardiovascular surgeons with the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute, answers some common questions about when heart disease requires surgery and what the recovery process looks like for patients.

What factors increase the likelihood of needing heart surgery?

Dr. Bauer: “What has happened is the public is becoming sicker and sicker with more comorbidities, and that consistently leads to a situation where a patient’s heart needs some type of procedure.”

What is unique about CHI St. Vincent’s approach to surgery?

Dr. Meadors: “We take a more focused approach to the pre-operative evaluation of our patients and we’ve taken a pledge to start this race with the finish line in mind. Blindly going through that evaluation process will lead to disappointing outcomes.”

How does the need for heart surgery increase as we age?

Dr. Bauer: “If you have any lifestyles that are predisposing you to coronary artery disease or another heart condition, sooner or later you’re going to pick it up. You can modify it with lifestyle changes, but the older you get, the more likely it is that you’re going to need an operation.”

What role do routine checkups with a cardiologist play in preventing the need for heart surgery?

Dr. Bauer: “There are certain conditions where the statistics are going to be coming for you, so it’s never too early to start finding out where you are. I think everybody that’s at least 50 years old should have a cardiologist check their heart, especially if they have a family history or any other risk factors for heart disease.”

How important is the recovery process after heart surgery?

Dr. Meadors: “Without a good recovery, we can’t have a good outcome. We are constantly looking at things that can sabotage recovery so we can put our patients in the best opportunity for a successful recovery.”

How does CHI St. Vincent’s team approach to heart care help patients with recovery?

Dr. Meadors: “Our whole team is focused on putting patients in the best possible circumstances. We couldn’t do that without our anesthesiologists, nurses, ICU team and all of the other specialists that work together here. We do a good job operating, but that’s only part of the story.”

If I have a heart condition, is it inevitable that I will need surgery at some point?

Dr. Bauer: “There’s this draw to be the hero and perform on everyone, but heart surgery is too invasive for some people. Sometimes, after our careful evaluation, we realize that heart surgery may not be the best thing for them.”

To learn more about heart and chest surgery options at the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute, including minimally invasive procedures, visit: chistvincent.com/heart