Surgeon Insights: Top 3 Facts to Dispel Patient Anxiety Before Heart Surgery
Written By: Adam Pick, Patient Advocate & Author
Medical Expert: Marc Gillinov, MD, Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Cleveland Clinic
Published: July 11, 2023
One of the most common emotions that patients, their family members and friends experience specific to heart surgery is anxiety. I can’t tell you how many phone calls I have with patients who are in tears and/or not sleeping due to anxiety and fear. Just yesterday, I spoke with Lynn who was sobbing as she openly shared with me, “I’m just so scared about what might go wrong.”
For this reason, I connected with Dr. Marc Gillinov, the Chairman of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. So you know, Dr. Gillinov has performed over 7,000 cardiac surgeries and successfully treated over 100 patients in our community. In this video, Dr. Gillinov explains exactly how he helps his patients manage their anxiety prior to surgery.
Key Learnings About Patient Anxiety & Heart Surgery
Here are important insights shared by Dr. Gillinov specific to anxiety, fear and heart surgery:
- Fact 1: Heart surgery is a routine procedure. “There are certain days in a person’s life that he or she will remember forever,” states Dr. Gillinov. “The day you have heart surgery is on that list. It’s a big, big deal and we recognize that. But, you can recognize this is what we do. This is routine for us. At Cleveland Clinic, for example, every day we do heart surgery on more than 20 people, coming up on 5,000 people a year. It’s important for you to know we do this all the time.”
- Fact 2: Heart surgery requires a team of experts. “You are not depending on one person,” states Dr. Gillinov. “You’re depending on about 20 different people or more who are going to take care of you. That is a first-class team. We have to win the World Series every year, and we do that on your behalf.”
- Fact 3: Heart surgery is safe. “The third thing to know is that you’re going to be fine,” states Dr. Gillinov. “Nearly everyone who has heart surgery returns to a completely normal full life.” As you can see in the chart above, the in-hospital mortality rate for many cardiac procedures at the Cleveland Clinic is well below 1 percent. In fact, the in-hospital mortality rate at Cleveland Clinic for mitral valve repair surgery was 0 percent in the most recent “Heart Surgery Outcomes Report” from the Cleveland Clinic.
Thanks Dr. Gillinov & Cleveland Clinic!
On behalf of our patient community, many thanks to Dr. Gillinov for sharing his clinical experience and research about fear and heart surgery with our community! Also, many thanks to Cleveland Clinic for taking such great care of heart valve patients.
- 100 Heart Surgery Patients Celebrate Dr. Marc Gillinov!
- Surgeon Q&A: Robotic Mitral Valve Repair Surgery with Dr. Gillinov
Keep on tickin!
P.S. For the deaf and hard of hearing members of our community, I have provided a written transcript of this interview below.
Adam Pick: Hi, everybody. It’s Adam with heartvalvesurgery.com. We’re at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons conference. I am thrilled to be joined by Dr. Marc Gillinov who’s the chairman of thoracic cardiovascular surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Gillinov, great to see you again.
Dr. Gillinov: Good to see you again, in person.
Adam Pick: In person. Dr. Gillinov, you and I have known each other now for many years and you’ve treated lots and lots of patients from heartvalvesurgery.com. I know one of the big concerns of patients that you help them with is their concern, their fear, the anxiety of having heart valve surgery. I’m real curious to know. What three things do you share with your patients to make them feel that open heart surgery is just going to be okay for them?
Dr. Gillinov: It’s funny you should say three things because there are exactly three things I share with them. The first is that it is routine for us. The second is that you’ve got an enormous team on your side. It’s not just me, your surgeon. The third is that you should expect and you will have a normal life.
The first thing is routine for us. There are certain days in a person’s life that he or she will remember forever. The day you have heart surgery is on that list. It’s a big, big deal and we recognize that, but also, you can recognize this is what we do. This is routine for us. At Cleveland Clinic, for example, every day we do heart surgery on more than 20 people, coming up on 5,000 people a year. It’s important for you to know we do this all the time.
The second thing that is important to know is that it’s a huge team of experts on your side. You’re not depending on one person. You’re depending on about 20 different people or more who are going to take care of you. That is a first-class team. We have to win the World Series every year, and we do on your behalf. The third thing to know is that you’re going to be fine. Nearly everyone, nearly everyone who has heart surgery returns to a completely normal full life.
Adam Pick: I’ve got to tell you, Dr. Gillinov, I’m not scheduled for surgery, but if I was, I’d be okay given all the great insights you’ve just shared.
Dr. Gillinov: I’d be happy to operate on you.
Adam Pick: Marc, as always, it’s great seeing you again. Thanks for all the wonderful things you’re doing at the Cleveland Clinic.