Healthy Heart

When Should You See a Heart Surgeon?

What Does a Heart Surgeon Do?

A heart surgeon or cardiovascular surgeon is known for operating on the heart as well as the blood vessels for repairing any damage that has been caused to the heart. This could be due to any kind of disorder or disease of the cardiovascular system. Most of the time, the initial diagnosis of heart disease is said to come from the general physician or the primary care doctor looking into heart-related issues. If the cardiologist decides that there is a need for carrying out the surgery, they may refer the patient to a heart or cardiovascular surgeon.

Once the heart surgery has been completed, you will remain under the care and management of the cardiologist. The heart surgeon performs various types of operations including, heart valve repair as well as the replacement, coronary artery bypass, transmyocardial laser revascularization, aneurysm repair, repairing any of the heart defects, as well as heart transplantation. These specialized doctors are also performing operations on the blood vessels, which can include the aorta, the main blood supplier in the body.

Heart surgeons need a significant amount of formal education. As mentioned earlier, they are specialized physicians who have pursued surgical training and further have specialized in heart surgery. A heart surgeon is qualified to carry out surgery that is related to the heart, lungs, blood vessels as well as other organs present in the thoracic area.

To become a qualified heart surgeon requires an intensive education as well as training which includes an undergraduate degree, attending medical school, an internship as well as residency training. The medical student also needs a state-issued license along with board certification in their specialty.

Need for Heart Surgeons –

These surgeons are known to treat various kinds of conditions related to the heart. They perform the following procedures:

Heart Failure Surgery:

Sometimes, heart failure is also referred to as congestive heart failure and occurs when the muscles of the heart stop pumping as it should normally. Due to certain conditions including the narrowing of the arteries present in the heart called coronary artery disease or high blood pressure it can slowly and gradually lead the weakening of the heart. With the help of certain treatments, it can help in improving the symptoms that lead to heart failure and help the individual have a better quality-of-life. 

Making certain changes in one's lifestyle, for example, exercising and staying active on a regular basis, reducing the amount of sodium in the diet on a daily basis, managing stress levels and losing weight can prevent heart disease. Heart failure can be caused by either be an ongoing or chronic case or it can start all of a sudden, which is acute heart failure.

There are certain symptoms that an individual should be watching out for and should not be ignored. These include being unable to exercise or there is a reduction in the ability of the individual to exercise, irregularity in a heartbeat, rapid heartbeat, severe case of shortness of breathing, nausea, persistent cough, dyspnea when you are lying down or exerting too much of oneself, and a wheezing sound including white or pink-colored blood-tinged phlegm. Also, an increase in the need for urinating during the night time, finding it difficult to concentrate, ascites or swelling occurring in the abdomen, feeling weak or tired too often, sudden weight gain due to the fluid retention issue, pain occurring in the chest in case if the heart failure is probably caused due to heart attack.

A few of the symptoms can mimic other medical conditions, but the individual should not ignore these symptoms and should be diagnosed to avoid any kind of complications. Get emergency medical help if you are experiencing a severe case of weakness or fainting spells, pain in the chest that is constant, severe and sudden case of feeling shortness of breath, as well as coughing out foamy and pink-colored mucus and irregularity or rapid heartbeat.

Ventricular Assist Devices or VADs Implantation:

The ventricular assist device or VAD is also called a mechanical circulatory support device that is an implantable mechanical pump that would help the individual in pumping the blood from the lower chambers of the heart which are called ventricles to the rest of the body. The VAD is mostly used in those who are said to be suffering from a weakened heart or have heart failure. Even though the VAD is said to be placed at the right, left or at times both ventricles of the heart, t is very often placed in the left ventricle. When it is placed in the left ventricle then it is referred to as left ventricular assist device or LVAD.

There can be a need for the individual to undergo VAD while they are awaiting heart transplantation or they are waiting for the heart to become strong enough to effectively start pumping the blood on its own. The doctor may also recommend having a VAD implanted as part of the long-term treatment in case the individual had heart failure. The procedure for the implanting of the VAD would require open-heart surgery and it has some risks. It has been reported that the VAD implant can also be a lifesaving device for those who have suffered from a severe case of heart failure.

Heart Valve Surgery:

An individual may need to visit a heart surgeon or would be recommended to a heart surgeon for heart valve surgery. It is a procedure for treating heart valve disease. During heart valve disease, at least one of the four heart valves that are known to keep the blood from flowing in the right direction via the heart may not function in a proper way. These valves can include the mitral valve, pulmonary valve, tricuspid valve, and the aortic valve. Each of these valves is said to have flaps that are known as leaflets for the tricuspid and mitral valve and called cusps for the pulmonary and the aortic valve.

These flaps should open or close in a proper manner once during each of the heartbeats. However, at times these valves may not open up or close in a proper manner thereby causing disruption of the flow of blood through the heart to the body. In the case of heart valve surgery, the heart surgeon would repair or have the affected heart valves replaced. Most of the surgical procedures are for replacing or repairing the heart valves which can also include open-heart surgery or minimally invasive form of heart surgery.

The treatment of the individual depends on various factors which can also include age, condition of the heart valve that has been affected and how severe the condition is. The need for carrying out heart valve surgery is when the condition is worsening.

The cardiologist or surgeon first evaluates the situation to identify what would be the most appropriate method of treatment. If the individual is not experiencing any symptoms or when the condition seems to be mild, then they will monitor the condition over a period of time. The doctor may also recommend a healthy lifestyle and certain medications for keeping the symptoms under control.

Heart Transplantation:

Heart transplantation is an operation for when the heart is failing or has been diseased and must be replaced with another healthier heart from a donor. Heart transplantation is a treatment that is reserved for those who have tried all the required medications or even other surgical routes but their condition has not shown much of the improvement. Heart transplantation is a major operation and the chances of survival are good when there is proper follow-up care being taken.

When one is faced with the decision of getting a heart transplant, they have a lot to consider, including the potential risks, the surgery itself, and the follow-up care post the surgery. 


Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the heart muscles that make it harder for the heart to effectively pump the blood and send it to the rest of the body. The condition of cardiomyopathy when not diagnosed can lead to heart failure as a complication. A few of the main types of cardiomyopathy are hypertrophic, dilated and restrictive cardiomyopathy. The treatment for this condition includes the use of prescribed medications, the use of certain surgically implanted devices and potentially the need for heart transplantation.

It also depends on which type of cardiomyopathy the person is suffering from. During the early stages of this condition, the individual may not experience any symptoms, but as the condition progresses, symptoms will start to appear. The symptoms can include feeling breathlessness even when one is resting, fatigue or feeling tired, discomfort or pressure on the chest, coughing while one is lying down, swelling of the feet, legs and the ankles, feeling dizzy, fainting spells, and bloating of the abdomen.

The symptoms may worsen if the condition is not treated or the symptoms are not controlled. Since some of the cardiomyopathy types may be hereditary, if you are suffering from this condition, you should tell family members to monitor their health. 

Coronary Artery Disease:

Coronary artery disease is known to be caused by the impairment in the flow of blood in the arteries that are supplying blood to the heart. This condition is also referred to as coronary heart disease or CHD and is a common type of heart disease. This tends to affect around 17 million people in the United States alone and those above the age of 20. Coronary artery disease has also been identified as one of the leading causes of death in both men and women. A heart attack is said to occur from CAD that is not controlled.

When the heart is not able to get enough arterial blood then the individual may start to experience certain symptoms. Discomfort in the chest or angina is one of the most common signs of CAD. Some individuals describe this discomfort caused in the chest like a burning sensation, tightness, feeling heavy and squeezing. Many times one can mistake these symptoms with those of heartburn or indigestion. A few of the other symptoms that an individual suffering from CAD would experience are, sweating profusely, dizziness, sudden pain in the shoulders and the arm, and feeling shortness of breath.

The individual may experience more symptoms when the blood flow is restricted to a higher level. If the blockage cuts off the blood supply completely or almost completely then the muscles of the heart will start to die if the damage is not reversed, leading to a heart attack. It is advisable not to ignore any of these symptoms. If these symptoms last more than five minutes, immediate medical help is a must.

Women may experience the above-mentioned symptoms, but they can also suffer from vomiting, pain in the jaw, nausea, feeling shortness of breath without the feeling of pain in the chest and pain in the back. Men are said to be at a higher risk of developing heart diseases than women who are in the premenopausal stage. However, women who are in the postmenopausal stage and above the age of 70 are said to be at the same risk factor as men. Due to the reduction in the flow of blood, the heart may also become weak, failing to pump enough blood. 

Congenital Heart Disease:

Congenital heart disease or congenital heart defect is an abnormality of the heart that is present since birth. This medical condition is said to have an effect on the valves of the heart, the heart walls or the blood vessels. There are multiple types of congenital heart defects and they can all range from a simple condition that may not lead to any symptoms to the complex medical conditions that can lead to severe form of a life-threatening condition. With the help of treatment as well as follow-up care for these defects, it has shown some improvement over a few decades. 

Children with heart disease are in need of continuous care for their heart condition throughout their lives. Many of them live active and normal lives despite their condition. For small children, a congenital heart defect is usually detected during the ultrasound carried out while the women are pregnant. If the doctor hears an abnormal heartbeat, they may want more tests or procedures.

The tests may include an echocardiogram, MRI scan or a chest X-ray. If a diagnosis has been made, the doctor will refer the expecting mother to an appropriate specialist for help during the delivery. Infants who are born with a heart defect can have difficulty while feeding, low birth weight, a delay in growth, and bluish-colored lips, toes, and fingers. The surgeon may suggest certain medications, implanting a heart device or a catheter procedure and in severe cases, open-heart surgery.