Preparing for Heart Bypass Surgery for the Elderly

Heart bypass surgery or better known as coronary bypass surgery (CABG) is the procedure used in replacing the defected circulatory vessels towards the heart muscles through a grafted channel which will make a bypass of the blocked segment of the coronary arteries. Usually, the blocked arteries are bypassed using a harvested vein either from the arm or from the legs.

The process is a major surgery and would require 4-6 hours depending on the severity as well as the number of bypasses that needs to be done. Throughout the process, the circulation would be managed by an external heart lung machine and the procedure can be done even with the heart still pumping.

Being a major surgical procedure which carries certain amount of fatality risks, the preparation for this type of surgery is done methodically as well as thoroughly in order to avoid intra-op as well as post-op complications. Thus, a patient preparing for a heart bypass surgery may have to undergo following controlling measures, capacity building measures as well as preventive measures.

1. Controlling blood sugar levels.

Wound healing plays a major role in the recovery process of any major surgery and more so in heart bypass surgery. Thus, patients who are undergoing this surgery would be assessed for high sugar levels and if necessary rapid acting and effective insulin treatment would be initiated to reduce the excess blood sugar.

2. Improving lung capacity

These patients are usually asked to practice blowing into a machine in order to build the lung volume and to improve the functionality of the lungs as any deficiency or compromise can adversely affect the recovery process.

3. Maintaining good clotting profile

Many elderly individuals with heart problems will be taking drugs which will prevent clot formation in the circulation and thus they are susceptible to bleeding tendencies as well as have poor clotting ability following a surgical process. Thus, a set of investigations such as bleeding time, clotting time, prothrombin time and INR would help in arriving at a decision to either proceed to the surgery or else to wait till the effects of the drugs has weaned off.

4. Infection free

Patients who are undergoing heart bypass surgery should be infection free and they are aggressively treated for any existing infections prior to the heart surgery. Apart from specific treatment, these patients are also asked to bath in antiseptic solutions in order to minimize the presence of disease causing bacteria in the skin as it can infiltrate the wound site and lead to a damaging infection.

5. Donate blood

It might be necessary to donate blood by friends or relatives of the patient or even the patient himself to a blood bank in order to make use of group specific blood at the time of the surgery.

6. Plan for a long rest

The recovery process, following the surgery, is relatively quicker than what it was earlier. Thus, 2 – 3 weeks of rest would be adequate before you engage in your usual work. But, activities which need straining a lot would have to be kept away for a little bit longer.

7. Setting the mind

One more important thing to realize in such surgeries is the patients’ emotional state and thus always should pay attention towards their wishes and grievances and take necessary action accordingly.