“Were You Anxious Before Heart Surgery?” Asks Ann

By Adam Pick on January 22, 2009

If you have an anxious personality, please consider the following…

The time period between your diagnosis and your actual surgery can be a challenging, anxious period.

How do I know? Well, I’m one of those Type A+ personalities. I’m a list maker and a nail biter. (Yes, I know how dangerous that combination is.) That said, I was a nervous wreck during the 4-week period from my second opinion to my actual heart surgery. Thankfully, I was asymptomatic. Other patients are both anxious and suffering from common symptoms related to aortic valve stenosis or mitral regurgitation.


Anxiety Before Heart Surgery

On this topic, I just received an interesting email from Ann.

Anne’s email reads, “Adam, I was just wondering if you became impatient while waiting to have your surgery? I was told this morning that the surgeon would be setting up an appointment to see me the next day or so. He has been out of town. I just feel like I have gone through this so many times that I am ready to get on with the surgery. I tire very easily from the least amount of excursion. Thanks, Ann”

I hope the central point of this blog is coming across loud-and-clear to you. If you are nervous, impatient or anxious before your heart surgery, please know that you are not alone.

There is a silver lining here!] The “waiting room” is temporary. You will have surgery. And, considering the statistics of heart valve surgery, you will most likely (i) feel better and (ii) live longer as a result of the operation.

Finally, please do not be afraid to communicate your feelings with others in your support group. It really does help to talk about these issues as you prepare for surgery. Personally, I’ll never forget how supportive my wife (Robyn) and family (Donna, Jerry, Doug, Monica) were during this time.

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Richard Holoubek says on January 22nd, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I am scheduled for a cardiac cathetorization on February 24 and surgery February 25 to replace a bicuspid aortic valve that I’ve known about for over 20 years.
I’ve never felt anxious about the surgery but do find myself thinking about it more the closer the date.

Mary Campbell says on January 22nd, 2009 at 3:02 pm

I spent from May 08 until the end of Nov 08 seeing several surgeons in the Phoenix area. After seeing 1 cardiologist and 5 surgeons, the answer was all the same….I needed my bicupsid aortic valve replaceed. Even with all their diagnosis, I still was not convinced that this was right for me at my age. So after much research I found a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who could repair my regurgitating bicupsid aortic valve and also repair my 5.3 cm aneurysm with a less invasive procedure which was performed on Dec 2nd. My sternum scare is about 4 inches long and I’m healing wonderfully. All the doctors I visited wanted me to schedule surgery right away. I was lucky in that I was able to take my time to find the most skilled doctor needed to perform my surgery which relieved alot of the anxiety that comes with waiting. Yes, I would say it’s normal to be anxious and also be happy with the physician you choose.

Rosie says on January 22nd, 2009 at 3:49 pm

My best advise is to keep busy and focus on how much better you will be down the road. I am 3 months post-op from Mitral valve replacement.
Each day is easier, and I have more energy than the several years prior to my surgery. Use that nervous energy to get your home ready for your recovery time — placing items within easy reach, making your bath area safe, and getting your favorite books or hobies in order to do while you return to good health. Don’t expect to be doing jumping jacks in a month, but do expect to be blessed with better health in the long haul !!

Joanne Harris says on January 22nd, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Ann — I was a Wreck before my surgery! It took 9 months for my insurance, cardiologist, surgeon, family and electrophyiologist to all confirm the need for mitral valve surgery. So here’s what I suggest: it’s been shown that going in to a surgery with a positive mental attitude is healthier than not — and xanax.

Dave Petro says on January 23rd, 2009 at 10:30 am

I was totally anxious before my surgery. Like you my surgeon was called out before our meeting to meet a family crisis. We did not meet for two weeks after I knew that I was going into the hospital. I did reasearch on all aspects of valve replacement and repairs. I had read Adam’s book but the apprehension was still there. I was fearful that I would be part of the 2% on the mortality list not part of th 98%. I paid for background checks for my cardiologist and surgeon. I found out that both were well schooled and very profiecent in the cardiac realm. Yet, I want more reassurance. I finally placed my fears in God and the Universe’s hands and certain clam entered. When I did meet with Dr. Underhill ( the surgeon) my fears seem to go away and the anxiety was gone. I re-read Adam’s book and felt much more at ease with the upcoming operation. It has been over three months now that my Aorta valve had been replaced and my Mitral valve repaired and two blood clots removed. I feel like a younger man and I my attitude is gratitiude.

Rebecca Roberts says on January 23rd, 2009 at 11:41 am

I had to wait about 6 weeks from the visit with my surgeon, until my surgery for mitral valve repair on 1/5/09.
Initially, I actually began worrying about how I was going to control my worry in the final days prior to surgery!
I successfully used much positive self-talk: reminding myself about how confident I felt about my surgeon and hospital choices, reviewing all the positive stories from others who had valve surgery, focusing on how much better I’d feel after surgery, viewing the surgery as an opportunity for personal growth,etc. I prepared for a negative outcome by updating my will,etc, and then never entertained those thoughts again.
I had very little anxiety right before the surgery as I was just so ready to get it done!
Now, 18 days after my surgery, I would say that the waiting was one of the most difficult aspects of this experience!

Lou Ann Marler says on January 23rd, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I am so anxious I dont know what to do. I too had a second opinion and he says , well he would wait six months, and then mabee 50/50. My regular cardiologist has already called the surgeon of my choice and surgery is scheduled on Feb. 4 th. I just heard the second opinion last night. One says my aortic valve is moderate to severe and the other says moderate, both believe I need surgery , mine thinks now good and the other says be rechecked. My insurance has already authorized this one , so now what does a person do if the two Dr’s have conflicting time schedules. Talk about stress , it has increased my already bad blood pressure ten times over. Any advice at all, or should I just stop everything and start all over again.??????? I know no-one can give medical advise, but am i just so scared and confused because of the two different opinions. Actually the surgeon I picked due to a few referrals, I don’t get to meet until the day before my surgery. He called me on the phone. We live three hundred miles away and thats how its set up at the heart center of the rockies. By the way I have all my children already flying in on the second and five siblings coming from out of stateas well. Oh what a mess. They all would loose their money for the tickets because they bought them on the internet. Nothing like pressure. All because Of this second opinion who called last night. I did like the physician, but now what…..

Sherri Hendry says on January 23rd, 2009 at 2:44 pm


I too was anxious when I found out that I might need surgery this past summer. The anxiety between waiting for the next round of tests that would determine my fate was incredible. Once finding out in the fall that it was time…A huge wave of emotions struck me. I cried, I was angered etc. Then I came out of it and said no big deal. Then I met w/ the Surgeon in November…that night I lost all. I needed to. I had been on the brink of a major anxiety meltdown but was pushing it aside saying no big deal, but after the first meeting w/ the surgeon, I couldn’t hold it in anymore. With that being said, and tears being shed, I felt more in control. I felt I could face it better. Get a better grip. January 7th I had my minimally invasive mitral valve repair surgery. All went well. I laughed my way into the operating room – and laughed my way out on discharge day. (even though laughing hurts after surgery – it was a sacrifice I was willing to make.) I am recovering well. I feel so glad I went and had the operation. I’m sore sure everyone is sore after any type of surgery, but the outcome if I had not had the surgery….don’t want to think about it. Just feeling blessed my problem was found while I could do something about it. Just know that you are not alone. We are many. Take care.

nancy mallinger says on January 23rd, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I waited 8 month between when I was told I needed aortic valve replacement IMMEDIATELY and when I had it. I saw 4 cardiologists and two surgeons, and they all gave me different opinions. I was totally asymptomatic and refused to be rushed. And then, like Mary who commented here, I ended up having my surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. I was incredibly stressed for all that time before–couldn’t think about anything else, didn’t sleep well, had shingles and stomach cramps. Xanax did help some. And, finally, I just wanted to get it all over with. The best part of being post op is not having that stress any more.

Mary says on January 25th, 2009 at 4:52 pm

I am 3 months post-op for mitral valve repair and I must tell you that it is worth it! I spent over 50 years being afraid of what I could not do . . . run, bike, compete . . . well, you get the idea. Now I have no limits as I heal. For the first time, at cardiac rehab I feel safe walking on a treadmill and biking on the stationary recumbent. By mid-October last year I felt like I was breathing thru a blanket – – awful. Now I feel like there is enough oxygen in the air – – sooo good. The fist ten days were tuff but the nurses & staff at Mount Sinai in NYC were always there for me with meds for pain or an upset stomach and I can be such a baby yet they were always compassionate and I was always appreciative. You can do this.

Lou Ann Marler says on January 25th, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Thank you all for your comments, they help so much … THanks again!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Micki K-N says on April 26th, 2009 at 10:15 am

I am scheduled for surgery on May 21st. I have a bicuspid aortic valve as well as an aneurysm in my ascending aorta. I always knew about the valve but the aneurym was a surprise. I went to the emergency room only because my doctor had left the office. I have been undergoing major stress and thought I was just having a panic attack. I was shocked by my diagonisis, as well as hearing how large the aneursym is. I am not too apprehensive about the surgery, as I am going to the best hospital in Chicago, and the doctor who is performing the surgery was originally at Cleveland Clinic. My biggest concern is the after care, as I live alone. Reading everyone’s comments has give me some peace of mind. thank you.

Sarah Williams says on November 29th, 2009 at 2:52 am

I am 43 and scheduled to have my aortic and mitral valves replaced in Houston January 5th. I am very anxious waiting and my emotions come on quickly. I have had stenosis my entire life but have not had symptoms until recently. Currently my aortic valve is .3 and the velocities and gradients are severe (can’t recall the exact numbers right now).

I worry that I will not make it through the surgery. I have had numerous other surgeries and have never felt this fearful. I think its due to now being a parent. My husband and I have 7 and 9 year old daughters and I think my fear is worse because I am concerned about them.

Does anyone have suggestions for how to talk to kids about this surgery and how to help them cope with their fears? We are working on our care plan for them while my husband and I are in Houston. They will stay home in Austin with their grandparents. We are trying to keep their routines as “normal” as possible. Still I get very emotional thinking about what they are going to go through and I will not be able to help them.


Dale P. says on December 6th, 2009 at 3:42 pm

I found out on 10/14/09 that I had a bicuspid aortic valve, and a \”stretched ascending aorta\” (a.k.a. an aneurysm). I had my surgery on 11/2/09. That two and a half weeks was really intense, during which I felt alternately very anxious and numb. My primary care physician was very supportive, saying that it would be abnormal not to feel anxious. She also prescribed a mild anti-anxiety medication so that I could sleep. I also took something the day before, but mostly, during my waking hours, I had plenty to do to prepare, and was okay.

Ms. Bernaclis Churchill says on December 1st, 2010 at 10:26 am

I too, have had a second opinion, and my second opinion did nothing to relieve my fears and/or questions. My EF is 40%, which is not normal, normal is 50% to 65%. My primary cardiologist, has not in my opinion been very good at monitoring my condition, because he only mentioned the 40% last year, and I have been seeing him for at least 2 decades. He gave the second opinion Dr, very little to go on, virtually no records at all to look at. My primary cardiologist, says that I have mod to severe MR, the 2nd opinion guy says moderate, but never mentioned the EF at all, and didn’t mention it in his final report, either. I am totally exhausted at the end of the day, and I feel as if I do not get enough sleep, thus I’m dragging all day, but I have felt this way for a long time, thinking that it was menopausal, that when asked, I never thought it was due to my MR, simply because my cardiologists never said anything i.e. that it can produce these symptoms. Also, neither cardiologists never recommended a surgeon, either, but my first cardiologist stated that I need MV repair. I feel as if I’m just being played with, and taken for my money when I go to see them.

I friend of mine stated that I should let them know how unprofessional they are both being, and press them for answers, since this is my life, and to stop playing games.

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