There is nothing easy or fun about being diagnosed with moderate or severe heart valve disease. The thought of having open heart surgery can be incredibly scary for patients.
Feelings of fear, confusion and doubt are all common among patients. In addition, the emotion of loneliness is often experienced by patients.
While these feelings are justified – given the often misunderstood facts heart surgery – it is critical for you to know that the odds of successful heart valve surgery are significantly in the patient's favor.
Consider that the average mortality rate of heart valve surgery, according to The Society of Thoracic Surgeons is only 1.7 percent. It is tragic that some patients do not live through the surgery. However, the good news is that 98.3 percent go on to lead healthier lives.
To learn more, please read "Dispelling the fear of heart valve surgery".
The importance of your emotional, social and physical support of a patient experiencing cardiac surgery can not be understated.
According to Dr. Niv Ad, chairman of cardiac surgery at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute in Virginia, a recent study demonstrated that the single most important indicator for successful surgical outcomes for patients over 80 years old was social support.
That said, we encourage you to learn about heart valve surgery and the surgical choices available to your patient. Today, there are many considerations for a patient including surgeon selection, surgical approaches, valve replacement devices and more.
It is also important to include yourself in this process – even if the patient does not explicitly ask for your help. You may be surprised at how difficult it is for your friend or family to simply say, “Can you help me?”
For this purpose, we also encourage you to organize a 'Friends and Family Support Group' to attend doctor appointments, visit the hospital regularly and ensure that the patient’s recovery plan (including cardiac rehabilitation) is planned in advance of the patient's return from the hospital.
For more, please see the "Importance of Support Groups".
It's been said that "knowledge is power". We think you will find a lot of truth to that statement as you evaluate the severity of the patient's diagnosis, the surgeons, the hospitals, the treatment options, and the recovery process.
As most heart valve surgery procedures are scheduled (not emergency operations), caregivers typically have time to learn about the patient's illness and the procedures needed to treat it.
Since 2006, HeartValveSurgery.com has developed several online tools and resources to help you learn about the proper care of heart valve disorders, treatment options, potential surgeons and more.
Since 2006, we have interviewed thousands of patients about treatment and recovery timelines.
Throughout each of those interviews, we continue to learn that each patient is unique, that each patient heals at different rates, and that each patient feels “recovered” at different times.
For this reason, we remind caregivers to focus on the patient’s unique healing as opposed to general recovery timelines. Again, each patient is unique.
That said, we continue to be asked two fundamental questions: