Consumer Reports: Questions about open-heart surgery

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Learning you need open-heart surgery can fill you with questions, and possibly fear. But Consumer Reports says knowledge can be a powerful tool in preparing yourself for this or an (WLS)

Learning you need open-heart surgery can fill you with questions, and possibly fear. But Consumer Reports says knowledge can be a powerful tool in preparing yourself for this or any procedure.

The idea of open-heart surgery can a feel almost like science fiction.

"They're going to you know, open up your chest and they are going to fix something in your heart often while your heart is stopped," said Lauren F. Friedman, Consumer Reports Health Editor said.

Yet this happens - successfully - hundreds of thousands of times a year.

Even though the mortality rate today is almost half of what it was in 1990, patients may still be understandably nervous about going under the knife.

Consumer Reports says asking the right questions during your consultation with a cardiac surgeon can help you approach your operation with confidence instead of fear.

Among them: Do I really need this surgery? What are my other treatment options?

Dr. David Adams, Cardiac Surgeon-in-Chief at Mount Sinai Health System, spends about an hour with each new patient, walking them through how the heart works, what the recommended procedure will accomplish and why they need it.

"I like to show them their actual anatomy and compare it to normal anatomy so they really understand what their disease is. I think when they understand that, I think a lot of the, sort of, fear, leaves them," Adams said.

He says it's also important to ask the doctor about their experience, specifically with the exact type of surgery you need.

"Do you consider yourself an expert? How many of these have you done and do you have any results you can share with me?" Adams said.

"Those questions should be answered. You shouldn't get pushback. If you do, that's a bit of a red flag," Friedman said.

Patients should also ask about what happens after the procedure.

"How will I feel? Is there any special equipment that I need? It will be really helpful to you and anyone taking care of you to have the answers to all of these basic questions before you have the surgery, so you know what to expect," Friedman said.

You can also connect with other patients who can share their personal experiences through the American Heart Association's support network.

Consumer Reports rated more than 500 hospitals on their outcomes with two common types of heart surgery. You can find those ratings, along with other hospital quality metrics at www.cr.org/hospitalratings.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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