Heart surgery, before, during and after

25 April 2013

Our Dedicated Nurse, Bev Barnes answered questions about heart surgery - before, after and during.

AXA PPP healthcare asked: Welcome to today's live chat on heart surgery with Bev Barnes.

Ruth asked: What types of heart disease are treated with surgery?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Ruth, the types of heart disease treated with surgery are coronary artery disease, cardiac valve abnormalities, arrythmias and diseases of the heart muscle. Please feel free to ask specific questions about any concerns you might have

fiona asked: Hi, my grandfather has a pacemaker which needs replaced. I'm really worried about this but he seems unfussed, what does it involve?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Fiona, Having a pacemaker can greatly improve the quality of life and for some people it can be life saving.
Most pacemakers are very reliable and comfortable. They're smaller than an average matchbox and weigh about 20 to 50 grams. A pacemaker sits just under the collar bone and will have one or more leads which are placed into the heart through a vein. The pacemaker battery has a life span which is checked regularly and within 3-6 years after the initial implant, will need to be replaced. This is a straight forward procedure and is used for people whos medication alone cannot control their heart arrythmias. Your granddad is likely not worried as he has been reassured by his specialist about the procedure.

Anonymous47 asked: What types of cardiac surgery procedures do patients undergo?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: There are many kinds of cardiac surgical procedures from minimally invasive procedures to unblock the heart vessels to open heart surgery to replace the valves inside the heart structure. Have you any specific heart surgery you would like further advice on?

anon asked: after surgery is there any advice on what i should be eating to recover quickly?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: The best post operative diet you can have is a well balanced nutritious diet that includes all of the food groups , lean proteins including fish, carbohydrates, preferably wholemeal, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. And stay hydrated.

Sallyd asked: How long does it take to recover generally?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: A simple heart procedure such as a angioplasty (open up blocked coronary arteries) the physical recovery will be approximately a week. If however you had a heart valve replaced, the physical recovery will be six to eight weeks. However please be aware that each person is different and the recovery time depends on the type of surgery they have and how well they were prior to surgery.

Lindsey asked: I heard that bypass surgery change a personality, is that true?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Lindsey, a bypass surgical procedure involves replacing some of the small damaged blood vessels that supply the heart muscle by using some small veins from the patients leg. the operation is complicated and the patients are put on a heart bypass machine during the surgery. There is a quite a long post operative recovery period, and afterwards patients often reflect on the life style changes they may have to make. Although this is a recognised safe operation, many people feel they have faced their mortality. this can affect the way the person view their life moving forward.

Anonymous2 asked: As heart surgery is such a major operation, do you have any advice on how to prepare mentally for such a procedure?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Having a clear understanding of why you need surgery and what is involved will help you prepare for surgery. You can get more specific Information from very supportive web sites, for example The British Heart Foundation and NHS choices. Each individual is different and where some people can take surgery in the stride, others need more support and guidance. Hopefully this has answered your question. if you have any specific anxieties and need further information, Please feel free to ask if you are a member of AXA PPP to speak to the dedicated heart nurses on 0800 2182 303.

Heather asked: How long would it be to get back into any sort of physical routine after heart surgery? i.e. going back to the gym or vigorous exercise?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Heather, post operative exercise guidance depends on the type of surgery you have had. You will be guided by your specialist and also the support of the local cardiac rehabillitation nurses. If you exercised regularly prior to surgery, please be assured that the majority of heart conditions following surgery after a period a post operative recovery, you can return gradually to a full exercise programme. the major exception to this is following implantable heart devices where contact sport is not advised


Lindsey asked: What is the average life expectancy for a heart disease patient after a bypass surgery?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Lindsey, long term recovery after bypass surgery is dependant on why the surgery was needed in the first place. For example, if the blood vessels were blocked because the individual patient had a very high fat diet and was also a smoker and they dont make life style changes following surgery, their life expectancy is going to be shortened. There is no average life expectancy following bypass surgery specifically, individual patients need to follow the advice from their heart surgeon to improve their quality and quantity of life

Anonymous56 asked: What are the non-surgical options for 100% heart blockage on one side of heart?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: The non-surgical options for heart block patients would be medication and routine monitoring from your cardiologist. However the likelyhood is that some surgical intervention would be required, for example a pacemaker

Rab asked: What's the Difference Between Angina, Coronary Artery Disease, and Heart Disease?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Rab, angina is an intermittent blockage of the small blood vessels, called the coronary arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle. Coronary artery disease is a broad term used to describe any disease affecting these particular blood vessels and heart disease is an even broader term that can cover a multitude of conditions that can affect the heart.

Rab asked: also, how long after surgery can you start smoking/drinking etc?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Rab, honestly this would be the time to stop smoking and to seek support from your gp to do this. Smoking will potentially undo the benefits of any surgery that you have. In regards to drinking, do discuss with your surgeon the number of units you normally have per week. It is dependant on the type of operation you have, as to when you can reintroduce alcoholic beverages.

Rab commented: ok thanks

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse commented: I am glad my advise was of help. I wish you well.

AXA PPP healthcare asked: Hi Bev we have had a question on facebook: "Is there anything people can do prior to surgery to speed up recovery"

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: There are no short cuts in recovery. If you have had extensive open heart surgery, for example this will take a minimum of six weeks for your body to physically recover. You can aid your recovery by eating a healthy and nutritious diet, stop smoking and reduce your alcohol intake. Follow the post operative advise given to you on discharge by your surgeon, making those lifestyle changes.

Justin asked: How much does your life have to change after a heart op?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dear Justin, this very much depends on the heart surgery you have had. However good lifestyle balance is always beneficial and dependant on why you needed the surgery will determine how your life may change post operatively. There is no reason why after an appropriate recovery period you could not resume the activities you carried out previously, although many people to re-evaluate their life styles after heart surgery which can have an impact on themselves as well as their family. .

AXA PPP healthcare asked: Hi Bev, We have also received the following question: How long after surgery can you carry out exercise?

Bev Barnes, Dedicated Nurse answered: Dependant on the type of surgery will depend on when it is safe to commence exercise post-operatively. For example if you had an angioplasty (procedure to open up small blood vessels to the heart muscle) you can start gentle exercise within a few days and within the next couple of months you can build up to your normal level of exercise. At the more complex scale of heart surgery, such as a transplant, you will just be starting very light exercise after 2-3 months. Recovery depends on the underlying medical reasons for the surgery, but exercise is encouraged for all heart patient under the guidance of your specialist and cardiac rehabillitation nurse.

AXA PPP healthcare asked: Thank you for all your questions and thank you to Bev for your time. The live chat is now closed.