ZocdocAnswersWhat is open heart surgery?

Question

What is open heart surgery?

My grandpa is scheduled for open heart surgery. I know there are risks involved and I'm scared! I don't quite know exactly what this kind of surgery is, and he's 66. What should we do to prepare him for the surgery and what's recovery like?

Answer

These are all excellent questions. The best thing for you and your family and grandfather to do to make sure that he is prepared for surgery and all that it involves is make sure you have a chance to go over all of your questions with your grandfather's surgeon prior to surgery. Surgeons will typically have a pre-op visit to go over all of these things and perform an exam to make sure a patient is medically safe to undergo major surgery. In addition, for open heart surgery, he will also have a pre-op appointment with an anesthesiologist and likely his primary care physician/cardiologist for clearance as well. Each of these physicians can help give you additional information about aspects of his surgery and recovery. As you indicate, open heart surgery is a relatively major procedure as it involves making a large incision in the center the chest, sawing through the sternum (or breastbone) and 'opening' the rib cage to provide the surgeon access to the heart. This sounds rather involved--and it is!--and your grandfather will spend several days in the hospital, including the post-surgical intensive care unit for a few days. He will likely also need to spend time in a rehabilitation facility in between the surgery and going home. However, the good news is that these kinds of surgeries are routinely done on patients of his age with very good results. Make sure to consult with the primary care physician or cardiologist if you have any further concerns.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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