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Women Surviving Open-Heart Surgery

A co-worker was talking about women having open-year surgery, as I will probably be having because of mod. to severe aortic regurg., and she said that, statistically, women do not tolerate or survive open-heart surgery as well as men.  I'm 49 and will probably need the surgery sooner or later.  Right now, I am not having symptoms and my ejection fraction is 65%.

I'm so afraid of having this done to begin with, and now that I hear that women have more adverse effects and there is a chance of not surviving this, I'm even more afraid.  

Also, at my last visit to my cardiologist, he said my murmur sounds much, much softer then it did during my last visit.  I asked him if this was good and he said yes.  He said apparently the medicine (Adalat) is helping. I get my next echo in April.  He said there's no way of predicting when I would need surger; it could be years from now, but ultimately, he thinks I will need to have the valve replaced. Another doctor told me that there is a possibility I would never need surgery.  He said my heart could stay the same for years to come with medication.

Should I be more optimistic about this whole situation?

Thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions.

7 Responses
Avatar universal
Dear Sandy,

You should remain optimistic.  It might very well mean that you require surgery, but women your age do exceedingly well.

YOur valve should be monitored closely in the meantime.
Avatar universal
The statistics I saw while researching prior to open heart surgery indicated that women tolerated surgery better than men, which is to say more women survived the surgery than men.  I don't recall if this was an apples-to-apples study, where the same procedure was done on both men and women.  I know it was not a bypass study.  If I can find the citations, I'll post them for you.  

I know the media have focused in the past year on so on the fact that women (statistically) do not survive heart attacks as well as men, but I'm not sure where their numbers came from.  

Perhaps CCF could give us some research citations to check on.

From a personal point of view, I had open heart surgery this year to repair the mitral valve and a PFO, and I was lucky enough to be in the hands of an extremely accomplished surgeon and cardiology team.  I believe that's the most important decision you'll make -- who will take care of you.  I also believe the fact I had pretty much absolute trust in my doctors contributed positively to my surgical recovery.

All the best to you.  It's not as bad as it sounds (tho it's no picnic either!)

Avatar universal
This is to Sandy from letter dated Monday Dec. 13, 1999.
I don't know if this will make you feel any better or not. I am 31 years old and I lost my Mom last week to a bacterial Infection she was awaiting her third valve replacement. My Mom had the Mitral valve replaced with a pigs valve 20 years ago Nov passed and  the same valve replaced five years ago she opted for the pigs valve over the mechanical valve because you can hear the mechanical valve working. For the passed five years since her last surgury they found the valve was leaking. My mom had been sick all her life she had almost every operation you could imagine. They told us her heart was very strong and that she would have made it through this operation as well. If this is any indication on the sucess rate of women I don't know what is. I am thankful to have had 20 more years with my Mom and that medical technology allowed this. She told me that the first few weeks after the surgury is tough you are very tender and sore. But each time she pulled through. You can live for years with symptoms like my Mom did, she was just a little girl when she had rheumatic fever which is what damaged her heart. So you can see she lived with it for years. My Mom was 63. My mom said when you have heart problems like she did you must be strong willed. Strength and determination run a very big part in everyday life and you must have that to be thankful. You need not be scared the technology they have now a days is unbelievable. But here is my advice to you if the doctors inform you that you need your valve replaced keep on them know what they are doing and why, ask as many questions as you can and don't be afraid to do so. This is your body and you should know what is going on with it. My Moms first pig valve lasted 15 years that is  a success in it's self I can only hope that I have helped you see that women can be strong and hopefully I have made you a little less scared.
From the daughter of a very strong hearted women.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your response.  Your mother, indeed, sounds like a strong person.  How did she get a bacterial infection while awaiting the third valve procedure?  Is this common?

I don't know what the future holds, but I have to try to remain optimistic.  I can't let each day go by filled with worry and fear, which is what I have been doing, and it's making me so tired. I thank God for the technology of today, and for excellent doctors and surgeons.  I am also grateful that I am about 2 hours await from Cleveland Clinic.  From everything I hear, the doctors and surgeons are among the best in the nation for my problem.  And that's what I want!

Thank you so much for being concerned about me, and I'm so sorry about your mom.  Your mom sounds like she was a terrific person, and it sounds like you had a very close relationship.  I know firsthand that to lose your mother is one of the most difficult things in the world to go through.

God bless you.
Avatar universal
I am a 50 year old female who had a life saving open heart surgery 3 years ago at the Clinic.  If I were you I would have all the confidence in the world in the surgical staff at the Clinic.  They saved my life and I am doing great.  Don't take to heart every thing you read.  Ask your doctor to help you sort out such information.
Avatar universal
Thanks to all for your comments.
Avatar universal
A related discussion, Depression after surgery was started.
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