Open Heart Surgery Expectations
In most cases, people who have open heart surgery can expect to see an improvement in their heart's function. However, it is important to note that bypass grafts can close over time; in addition, graft closure is more common in people who continue to smoke, have untreated cholesterol, and do not make dietary and lifestyle changes after the surgery. Because individual situations can vary, it's important that your open heart surgery expectations match your doctor's expectations.
(Technically speaking, an open heart surgery is any procedure where the chest is opened, which certainly includes procedures beyond a heart bypass (a valve replacement, for example). However, because a heart bypass is the most common type of open heart surgery, for the purposes of this article, we will be using the terms "bypass" and "open heart surgery" interchangeably.)
The success of your bypass surgery will depend on your individual situation, especially the condition of your health and the severity of your illness.
However, in most cases, you can expect that your heart's function will improve after this surgery. Most individuals recover quickly after open heart surgery and rehabilitation, and are much better than they were before the surgery. In fact, studies have shown that the vast majority of patients will improve, while only a few will have no improvement.
It is important to realize that bypass grafts can close over time. Vein grafts last an average of 10 years, while artery grafts average about 15 to 20 years.
Graft closure is more frequent in those patients who continue to smoke, have untreated high cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia), or do not make dietary and/or lifestyle changes after the surgery. If the graft does close, symptoms will return. Unfortunately, a repeat bypass surgery is more difficult and often less successful than the initial surgery.
Because individual situations can vary, you should talk to your doctor about your particular expected results. It is important that your expectations match your doctor's expectations.