Heart surgery: then and now | Health Focus SA

Technology is changing faster every day. You might be surprised to learn that the technology that made open-heart surgery possible is only 67 years old. In 1953, the “heart-lung machine” was first used clinically by its inventor John Gibbon.

Since then, there have been many advances in cardiac surgery and the care surrounding it. We address common questions and describe what modern heart surgery looks like today. You might be surprised at how much progress has been made in less than a century.

Is heart surgery a risky procedure?

All procedures, and even medications, carry risks. Although heart surgery is an invasive procedure, technological and technical improvements, as well as the formation of specialized teams, have led to safer heart surgery.

Often heart surgery is done to reduce the risk of a fatal or disabling heart attack. A cardiac surgeon’s responsibility is to carefully assess and discuss your personal risk of surgery to help you decide on the best treatment option that balances the risks with the benefits.

In the case of heart surgery, the benefit is a longer and healthier life when the surgery is performed safely.

Am I too old for heart surgery?

In the early years of heart surgery, patients over the age of 65 were considered “old people.” Nowadays, patients between the ages of 70 and 80 can safely undergo heart surgery.

Again, it is important to carefully assess all other health issues and your general condition. Some people are too frail or too ill to have heart surgery, and in those cases we are exploring other options.

Will heart surgery cause a stroke or brain damage?

Stroke is one of the most dreaded outcomes of any medical intervention. Although complications are always possible, in modern heart surgery the risk of stroke is low (less than 1%) for most patients.

Before a person has heart surgery, the surgeon will assess their medical history, exams, and test results to estimate stroke risk, counsel patients, and develop plans to reduce the risk as much as possible.

What will my quality of life be after heart surgery?

In addition to helping people live longer, one of the goals of heart surgery is to improve a person’s quality of life. Heart disease can cause life-limiting symptoms like chest pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath that keep people from enjoying life.

Although recovery takes some time, people usually walk around a few days after surgery and do light activities when they get home. 2-3 months after surgery, most patients are fully recovered and have no activity limitations.

University Health Heart Institute

Learn more about University Health’s team of cardiology experts. Our cardiologists are nationally recognized leaders in the field of cardiac care. We perform a number of heart surgeries including heart bypass surgery, heart valve surgery and aortic surgery. Your health and recovery are our top priorities. Ask your doctor for a referral.