What is Thoracic Surgery Recovery Like?

What is Thoracic Surgery Recovery Like? What is thoracic surgery?  Any surgery that is performed with an incision that enters through the chest is considered thoracic surgery, including open heart surgery. Recovering from thoracic surgery is a long process. The recovery process will depend upon the exact type of surgery you have, the placement and size of the incision, the condition of the individual patient, and the care taken post-surgery. What is Thoracic Surgery? Often referred to as open-heart surgery, thoracic surgery may address a problem with the heart, esophagus, lungs, trachea, aorta, or diaphragm. Open heart surgery poses a significant challenge when it comes to healing. It’s going to take time to get back to feeling your best. It’s common to feel very tired and run down for six to eight weeks following the surgery. Your chest may feel swollen and sore for up to six weeks following the surgery. Most patients who have traditional open heart surgery go home with staples or stitches holding the incision closed while it heals. Most also require drainage tubes to remove excess fluid and air that can build up during surgery. Those tubes will most likely be removed before leaving the hospital. If the tubes remain in place, you’ll be given special instructions for post-surgery care. Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery The surgery itself does not have to be an invasive trauma. Minimally invasive, bloodless heart surgery relies upon a much smaller incision and provides a much shorter healing time than traditional open heart surgery. While recovery following any heart surgery is a long and arduous process, it’s important to choose the...

Heart Surgery Scars

Heart Surgery Scars Heart surgery scars are a painful reminder of a long healing process following the trauma of open heart surgery. A sternotomy scar is often large and may remain tender long after the surgery. Surgery is, by nature, an invasive trauma to the body. Scars are the result of the body’s efforts to repair the damage. Why Don’t Scars Go Away? When the dermis, or skin, is damaged, the body does its best to repair the damage. Since the dermis is the first line of defense against invading germs and bacteria, it must be repaired as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, rather than take the time to regrow normal skin, the body resorts to producing large amounts of collagen, a thick, fibrous tissue, producing a scar and protecting the body from invading bacteria. Do the Scars From Open Heart Surgery Go Away? While scars fade over time, a sternotomy scar will never fade entirely. The damage to the dermis and underlying tissue is far too extensive for the body to heal entirely. The scar may remain tender and “tight” for years following the surgery and will never go away. There are steps the patient can take to reduce scarring and help the body heal following surgery, but the open heart surgery scar will always remain. Can You Replace Scar Tissue with Normal Tissue? It is not possible to replace scar tissue. Producing scar tissue and healing the incisions from invasive surgery takes all of the body’s resources. Once the wound is sealed and the body protected from foreign bodies and bacteria, the scar is permanent. It...

Leaking Heart Valves

Leaking Heart Valves Patients living with leaking heart valves have more options than ever. A bio heart valve or mechanical heart valve may be the best option to repair a damaged heart. A leaking heart valve not only puts additional strain on the hardest-working muscle in your body, it can lead to aneurism or separation and further damage to your heart. Mechanical Heart Valve One option patients may be offered is heart valve replacement. A mechanical heart valve has several advantages. Primarily, there is little to no risk of the valve itself being rejected by the body. A mechanical valve may not wear out as quickly as a bovine (harvested from a cow) or porcine (harvested from a pig) heart valve. Patients may, however, require blood thinners when living with a mechanical heart valve. How Long Do Pig Valves Last in Humans? The answer varies. The valves last an average of seven to ten years in patients over 65. Conditions affecting the metabolism of calcium in the body, especially in children and young adults, increase the chances and the speed of failure of a bio heart valve. Bio Heart Valve A bio heart valve, which is harvested from either a cow or pig heart may be implanted either using a structure called a stent, or may be “stentless.” The likelihood of a bio heart valve failing depends on the individual patient’s condition and a number of other factors.  Your doctor can help you decide which type of valve is right for you when considering bicuspid aortic valve replacement options. Biological Heart Valve Pros and Cons The primary advantage of...

What is a Normal Pulse Range

What is a Normal Pulse Range Following surgery, vital signs are carefully monitored in the hospital. You may find that your heart rate after open heart surgery has changed. Symptoms like a speeded up heart rate or a pulse deficit may indicate an fibrillation problem.  Normal Pulse Range The normal pulse rate for adults at rest ranges from 60-100 beats per minute. The normal pulse range can change after a surgery or under continuing stress. It’s important to check with your doctor to ensure your vital signs are where they should be for you. Everyone is different. An “average” is what’s normal for most people in the general population. What’s normal for you may vary. Pulse Deficit A pulse deficit occurs when your doctor can find a difference between the number of heartbeats observed with a monitor (like a stethoscope or EKG) and the pulse that’s able to be felt at the wrist or other pulse point. A pulse deficit happens when your heart is beating but the pulse isn’t reaching the extremities. It may indicate a weakness in your heart, atrial fibrillation, or very early ectopic beats. Vital Signs Your vital signs are the best indicator of your overall heart health. If you’re experiencing a change in your heart rate after open heart surgery, you will want to discuss your heart rate and blood pressure with your doctor. It’s important to learn to monitor your own heart rate at resting and during exercise so that you have a baseline to refer to when checking your pulse.  If you have any questions following your treatment or about your heart...

Benefits of a Low Sodium Diet

Benefits of a Low Sodium Diet Anyone who has a family history of hypertension has heard the term “low sodium diet.” It sounds like a bland way of eating that deprives the eater of flavor and interest in food, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As Americans, we consume a constant stream of processed foods, but given the chance, it’s possible to retrain ourselves to enjoy a wider range of flavors. Low Sodium Diet While at first, the idea of reducing one’s salt intake may imply the loss of flavor, the exact opposite is true. In processed foods, salt is used to mask the flavor of chemicals and to replace the natural flavors lost in the cooking and preservative processes. When salt is reduced in our diets, those flavors have a chance to emerge, and our tastes adjust to enjoy the natural flavors in foods once again. Choosing a low-sodium diet isn’t just better for your overall health, it opens up new vistas of enjoyment in your eating that will make you fall in love with food again. Blood Pressure The American Heart Association has known for decades that a diet high in sodium content is one of the factors that contributes to hypertension, a leading cause of heart disease. High blood pressure puts a strain on the heart and vascular system and can cause irreversible damage. Getting blood pressure under control takes more than just a change in the diet. A fitness routine and increased activity level, as well as reducing overall stress and engaging in more enjoyable activities like hobbies will help reduce blood pressure...