When Does Heart Disease Require Surgery?

From heart attack and heart failure to arrhythmia and valve complications, part of monitoring heart health is recognizing common heart conditions and understanding when surgery becomes necessary. Dr. Michael Bauer, cardiovascular surgeon with the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute, answers some common questions about when heart disease requires surgery and how cardiologists and surgeons work together to make that decision with a patient.

What factors increase the likelihood of needing heart surgery?

“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.”

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

“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.”

Is heart surgery only necessary for adults?

“Heart surgery doesn’t discriminate. We operate on a lot of older people with coronary artery disease and we also operate on a lot of younger people, so it’s definitely a mix and something everyone needs to monitor.”

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

“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.”

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

“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