Does Grey’s Anatomy Miss Mark On Heart Surgery Reality?

Don’t get me wrong.

I really enjoy the television show Grey’s Anatomy (Thursdays, 9pm on ABC).

My wife (Robyn) really loves it. So, we always watch the weekly trials and tribulations of Meredith Grey, McDreamy, McSteamy, George, the Chief, Yang, Izzy and, lately, Dr. Erica Hahn – the head of cardiothoracic surgery at Seattle Grace.

Brooke Smith - Heart Surgeon Dr. Hahn On Gray's Anatomy

That said, the title of this blog may be a little harsh for ABC’s hit series.

But, as a former open heart surgery patient, I’m getting a tad uncomfortable of the dramatic style by which Grey’s Anatomy depicts life in a heart surgery ward.

  • Last week, the show depicted a three-way sexual innuendo among the operating physicians during cardiac surgery.
  • A few weeks before that, a patient showed little-to-no signs of physical trauma following heart valve surgery.
  • Recently, Dr. Hahn (played by Brooke Smith) failed to inspire and encourage her talented resident (Yang) to participate in a cardiac procedure.

I know. I know.

Maybe I’m a little sensitive.

It is a television show designed to win fans, ratings and ultimately advertisers.

I guess I just want future patients and caregivers to know what life is really like in a hospital. Especially, considering that Grey’s Anatomy’s viewers may be scheduled for surgery the next day, the next week or the next month. For that reason, I wish the writers and producers of the show would enhance their portrayal of hospital life for heart surgery patients.

Do you watch the show? What do you think?

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Geoff

    I couldn’t agree more. I was watching with Lisa the same episode you are refering to and commented about how off it was.

  • Amy Mortensen

    Although I agree with your comment that Gray’s Anatomy puts too much drama in the operating room, I was excited that I understood the procedures described in the show. I learned the terminology from your book. Thanks!

  • Anne

    I agree. they are just after ratings, but can understand where you are coming from though Adam. Maybe you could write in, but i dont think you would have much success. All the world is about these days is making money/ getting in the ratings etc. Everyone needs to get back to smelling the roses so to speak.
    Think we need to stick to reality shows where they follow patients in hospital and their recouperation.

  • Joanne

    A few weeks before that, a patient showed little-to-no signs of physical trauma following heart valve surgery –my personal favorite!

  • nancy mallinger

    I was also really amazed at how well the patient looked and seem to feel after valve replacement. If only that were the reality. As someone who is about to face this surgery, I was offended by the way its recovery was depicted.

  • Jan

    Dear Adam,
    I used your book to prepare all of us for my husband’s mitral valve repair. Even so, when my 3 adult sons saw their Dad immediately post-op, 2 had to go outside for air, and one lost his supper! I agree you about Grey’s anatomy. Another show,Diagnosis X did valve replacement and the patient was sitting up post-op with no IV’s or oxygen or monitor!
    By the way, Bill’s surgery was successful, and after a few days of very low blood pressure, and pain from the chest tube, he made a rapid recovery, and is doing far better than we expected! Thanks for your help.

  • mercy turan

    Hello! Haven’t commented in a good while, but this is one of my personal peeves! I have to say that I have worked in hospitals first as a volunteer then as a nurse (including ICU units and operating rooms) for the last 30 some years and that my experience is that anything, and I mean anything, (including affairs between coworkers –heterosexual and not–sexual and other misconduct and just plain weird things that happen at work) in the real life hospitals PALES by comparison to what I have seen in medical shows. In fairness to ER producers, they must have had very good consultants who actually knew their stuff, but only in the earlier years of the show. The truth is that they ARE ALL about the ratings, and if it is not sensational and sexy (they don’t care about whether it is correct or not) the producers know half the people out there are not going to watch. It sometimes makes me so angry, or makes me laugh so about their misconceptions, that it spoils the fun of sitting down to watch anything I thought might be entertaining. If the ER’s in the major hospitals were as crazy every second of the day everyday, the way it is portrayed in TV shows, we would all be totally exhausted 24/7. Just remember to see these shows as you would be reading a “condensed” or “abridged” book, — they’ve got to put all the juicy stuff in there all at once to keep the majority of us with attention spans of 3 1/2 minutes watching. As for me, I make it a point to not watch Gray’s Anatomy or any other series medical show, and I say so very proudly. There are so many things to learn in channels like Discovery, Discovery Health, and Public Broadcasting System in general that I choose not to waste my time watching anything that at the very least is not going to open my mind to a new concept or teach me something. Perhaps there is truth about rating companies giving importance to what is called PBS demographics!

  • Sarah

    I agree absolutely. The show gets it completely wrong. After surgery was a very bleak time for me.
    I am a 24 year old woman who just had open heart and a month later a thoracotomy. I was supposed to get a pig valve but they were able to put a ring instead. Which was amazing. I write this also to see if there are many people my age out there that have gone through this. I would really enjoy being an encouragement to you and love to hear your story.

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