What do I need to know about heart or lung surgery?

Every patient and procedure is unique in their own way, but we've put together a resource page for you on What to Expect while you are a patient at Phoenix Cardiac Surgery.

What is a Heart Attack?

The medical term for a heart attack is a myocardial infarction. All muscles in the human body require oxygen to function. A heart attack/myocardial infarction occurs when the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen, resulting in damage to the muscle of the heart.

The coronary arteries are responsible for the delivery of oxygen to the heart muscle. When these arteries become severely blocked or narrowed, they restrict the flow of oxygen to the heart. The result may be a heart attack.

What are the symptoms of a Heart Attack?

The symptoms of a heart attack vary, but here are the most common:

  • Squeezing, burning, tightness, fullness, or pressure across the chest, which may radiate to the shoulder, arms (especially the left), neck, jaw, teeth, earlobes, as well as the upper back between the shoulder blades.
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

Note: You can suffer a heart attack with any or all of these symptoms. If you think you may be experiencing a heart attack, dial 911 immediately.

Can changing my diet reduce risk of a Heart Attack?

Yes! Your diet does impact your risk of heart disease. Modifying your diet to control weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels can help you avoid a heart attack, as well as improve your overall health.

Can exercise help prevent heart disease?

Exercise has long been recognized as a way to combat certain coronary risk factors, and it’s a critical part of successful recovery from open heart surgery.

Instructions for exercise will typically be provided by physical therapy, nursing, and inpatient cardiac rehab personnel. Knowing how to gauge your exertion level and take your pulse is helpful for everyone, regardless of your heart health.

Will I need a blood transfusion?

Physicians at Phoenix and Yavapai Cardiac Surgery perform over 90% of routine cardiac operations without giving a single unit of blood. We are key opinion leaders around the world on Patient Blood Management. We use a multi-specialty, multi-modality approach to heart surgery so that surgery is performed without having to rely on blood transfusions, leading to the best possible outcomes.

Patient Blood Management (PBM) is the scientific use of safe and effective medical and surgical techniques designed to conserve a patient’s own blood and decrease bleeding in an effort to improve patient outcome. This technique is design to minimize or avoid the need for the transfusion of donor blood components. Many people refuse blood transfusion of some or all blood products. This could be due to their religious believes (e.g. Jehovah’s witness) while others do so as a result of healthcare concerns or other personal convictions.

In the US, many cardiac surgical programs still use blood transfusions in over 60% of patients undergoing heart surgery even while hundreds of studies have now shown that patients who get even one unit of blood or blood products (fresh frozen plasma, platelets, etc.) have a higher complication rate and mortality. These risks can range from infections to allergic reactions that can be life threatening. There is also evidence that by avoiding blood transfusions, patients will have faster recoveries and shorter hospital stays.

Learn more about Patient Blood Management from the The Society for the Advancement of Patient Blood Management (SABM.org).

What are the warning signs of heart problems after surgery?

You should call your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Weight Gain: You gain more than 3 pounds in one day or 5 pounds in one week. Weigh yourself every day and track your weight.
  • Chills or Fever: You have chills, sweating, or a fever over 100.4 degrees for more than a day.
  • Irregular Heartbeat: Your heart seems to be beating fast or slow, or skipping beats.
  • Trouble Breathing: You have shortness of breath while resting.
  • Chest or Shoulder Pain: You have pain or tightness in your chest or shoulder that worsens with deep breathing or coughing.
  • Swelling around Incision: You have swelling, redness, oozing, or tenderness around your chest incision.
  • Bleeding: You have unexplained bruising or bleeding.

Heater-cooler devices and NTM infections

On October 13, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Health Alert Notice to patients and hospitals regarding the risk of NTM infections from Stöckert heater-cooler devices used during open-heart surgery. While risk of infection is low, it is important to consult with your doctor.

Patients who have had open-heart surgery and are having the following symptoms should seek medical care:

  • night sweats
  • muscle aches
  • weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • unexplained fever.

As recommended by the CDC, we are working to alert anyone who underwent a surgical procedure with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), including cardiac surgery, general thoracic surgery, or vascular surgery from June 2011 to August 2016.

As advised by the CDC, we no longer use the Sorin Stöckert 3T heater-cooler devices.

Read more from the CDC here.