When you need heart surgery – how to find the right treatment for you
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In the UK alone there are over 100,000 hospital admissions for heart attacks a year. Once diagnosed with a heart condition, for many this can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication under the supervision of the local care physician or cardiologist. However, in more severe situations, sometimes heart surgery is the best option for the best outcomes and quality of life.
Cardiothoracic surgery relates to any surgical procedure that involves the heart, lungs, blood vessels surrounding the heart and other organs in the chest. These procedures are common with patients who have heart disease or have had a heart attack, collapsed lung, stroke or blood clot—as well as individuals who are at high risk for developing these problems. It is a challenging area of surgery and requires extensive training for doctors to specialise in this field.
What types of surgery are there?
There are different types of surgery, some are less invasive than others, though the correct surgery to treat the condition will depend on the diagnosis.
The most common heart surgery is CABG (coronary artery bypass grafting), a procedure used when there is a build-up of plaque within the blood vessels. Other common heart surgeries include:
• Transmyocardial Laser Revascularization (TMR) - This procedure is usually performed to treat angina (chest pain from a lack of blood going to the heart) when no other treatments work.
• Heart Valve Repair or Replacement – In most cases, this is an open-heart operation. The surgeon opens the chest and heart to remove a damaged valve and a prosthetic one is sewn into place.
• Heart Transplant – This type of surgery removes the patient’s diseased heart and replaces it with a healthy heart from a deceased donor. This operation is for patients who have end-stage heart failure, or for people whose heart is very damaged and weak.
• Arrhythmia Treatment –An abnormal heart rate may not pump enough blood to the body, and it may damage the brain and other organs in the body. Some arrhythmias are treated with a pacemaker – a small device that gets placed under the skin of your chest. Another way to treat arrhythmias is an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). This device is also placed under the skin of your chest and uses electrical pulses to control arrhythmias.
• Aneurysm Repair – An aneurysm is a bulging or an out-pouching portion of a blood vessel. It can occur anywhere in the body, but it is particularly dangerous if it occurs in the aorta. An aneurysm can burst and cause fatal bleeding inside the body, which is why repair surgery is performed.
• Angioplasty – This minimally invasive procedure is used to widen narrowed or obstructed arteries or veins, using a balloon or stent.
• Cardiomyoplasty – This surgical procedure takes healthy muscle from another part of the body, then it gets wrapped around the heart to provide support.
Who performs the surgery?
Such procedures are performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon and they would be responsible for operating on the diseases that happen in the heart and other organs in the chest, as well as the tissues and bone structures that form the chest cavity. They are not to be confused with a cardiologist, who would review the medical history of a patient and run physical tests to help determine which treatment would be needed.
A cardiothoracic surgeon works with a cardiologist and other medical staff to determine the best course of action that can be taken for a patient. Depending on what symptoms the issue presents, there are a range of procedures that can be offered.
Why are patients booking their heart surgery abroad?
Huge delays in treatment and a backlog of surgeries due to COVID have resulted in many patients in need of life-changing heart surgery seeking to reduce their waiting time for an operation by travelling overseas. Those seeking to self-fund their heart surgery are looking at countries with centres of excellence for heart procedures, with the added benefit of short waiting times.
According to WHO, Cardiothoracic surgery has become one of the most important medical practices in the world as cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death globally. With it being such a widespread issue, the options to treat a wide range of heart conditions abroad have developed greatly, resulting in huge benefits:
• Costs – Cardiothoracic procedures can be expensive, which is why many people opt to go abroad for treatment as medical tourism has become increasingly popular, creating more options for patients to choose from.
• High quality treatment – Many countries have excellent surgical facilities with expertly trained doctors and the best equipment which offer competitive prices and can be a great alternative to have the right treatment without making a sacrifice in quality.
• Top-tier care – In some healthcare destinations, such as China and India, they have arrangements with first-class providers for hotel accommodation and transport, with recovery facilities for post-op treatment.
If you are looking for a particular heart surgery or to find a cardiothoracic specialist, register your interest on our Patients page and we will inform you as soon as our platform goes live: brit-med.com/patients/