AF Association
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open heart surgery

After being diagnosed with AF I went for an catheter ablation which threw up a clot in my heart. This in 2016 after waiting to see if this would be reabsorbed after further TOE`s it was still there. I saw a surgeon in Sept. 1017 and he agreed to operate to remove the clot and another surgeon to do a surgical ablation at the same time. Now after numerous test, which I am happy to say came back all clear, the has given me a possible date for surgery in May next. After looking at all the alternatives, which I cannot find, I am obviously very nervous of what is major surgery has anyone out there had this kind of procedure at an advanced age(I am 73) and if so how was it?

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I'm not a doctor and haven't experienced this myself but believe I've heard that , whilst surgical ablation is slightly riskier because it involves invading outer tissues etc, it is also more successful.( people can see clearly what is needed ) Given that you have a clot there to be dealt with too, it seems you have made a good choice. Surgical ablation is often done when there are other reasons to act surgically- like yours.

I don't think 73 is a great age- unless you have other health problems that would affect having an anaesthetic.

I do hope all goes well and do let us know how you get on

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My surgeon called me in last Wednesday just to make sure I knew what I was letting myself in for as his colleague was not confident I was aware of the risks I face. I told him that after extensive research I did know and that it was "kill or cure" time as I could not live with not being able to walk across a room with out becoming breathless. I have no other issues medically except this AF and was grateful that they found this clot when they did, as they told me that it was not a recent one and I would probably need to have it surgically removed. They were not wrong! Because he is one of the top 13 thoracic surgeons in the country I elected to wait on his list, but this means that I am not an emergency. If I survive I will post again, so fingers crossed.

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That's great that they are making sure you are fully informed. Having the most experienced people is great and getting rid of two problems at once will be a great relief for you. It will take time to recover as many on here will advise. Keep in touch!

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It sounds as positive as heart surgery can, cali - one of the top men who is interested in keeping his patient informed, no other health issues and the need to seek better quality of life.

I am also 73 - kicking hard at 74 - and it isn’t advanced old age, just everyone else is too young. 😀

Best wishes with your surgery and an end to AF and its miseries. Please let us know how you are. xx

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Thank you and others for their replys. It reinforces my choice as I visited some very dark moments wondering if I was reaching for too much. I shall be glad when this is all done and dusted-hopefully!

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Hi Cali,

I think you have a difficult decision as you run risks if you don't have the clot removed too- think you are being brave and I hope the outcome is good and you remove two problems at the same time. remember ablation doesn't always work the first time - but surgical ablation is more successful. The risks re your clot are present with whatever choice you make and if you have researched widely and heard the relative risks ( doing nothing / having the clot removed) from your doctors and made your decision then we all wish you the best of luck- do keep us informed Good luck!!

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It was the ablation part that the other surgeon who is to carry out that part was concerned that I didn`t fully understand. I know that this part of the procedure might not work, but I look at it that 98% are successful, why not me? If it fails then the fact I haven`t got a clot anymore when enough time has past they will do a catheter ablation. This I have in writing so it is onward and upward.

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That’s good to hear- you seem to have all the information needed. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

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Very best wishes, I am 73 too and believe that is the new middle aged! I hope everything turns out as you hope. I had a risky operation some years ago but like you couldn't face the alternative and I was fortunate so I wish the same for you 💖

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Thank you

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Been there, done that, got the zipper. Operated on at the Royal Brompton where they fixed my valves. Lovely people. Not too keen on the anaesthetic they used as I was away with the fairies for about 3 days afterwards.

I was 69 at the time and went into hospital with a blood clot on my leg. I could walk about 6 paces, then rest and so on . Dr Page in Royal Glamorgan A&E gave me a once over and said "I shall be writing to your cardiologist". Probably saved my life.

Your full recovery will take about 3 months and It will be a bit painful to start with and you will need a v shaped pillow at first, however if you follow a gradual exercise plan (I used to measure my progress by lampposts and drives) you will steadily gain strength. Got to know all my neighbours and read a few books but try to avoid comedies for the first few weeks. Make sure you have a few slaves handy to wait on you hand and foot, it's wonderful.

Your local hospital/GP should have a recovery program to help you get fit and there is a strong correllation between completion of this and positive outcomes.

Is it worth it? Quite simply - yes , if you want your life back.

Remember it is all part of life's rich pattern

Ian

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Thank you for that reviving message. Tell me why you need a v pillow?

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Hi I had a benign tumour in my heart removed in 20013 as well as cox maze procedure. It's a big op and we all recover at different rates. I agree with the v pillow it props you up nicely. I also had a small micro bead cushion I used to hold against my wound when in bed to prevent me rolling over. Not sure if your male or female, but I bought Eden dry shampoo caps. Not as good as washing hair but helps. Also bought some sports type bra I could step into them I wriggle them up my body. Lot easier than traditional back fasteners and comfy. I am now four yrs post surgery. Had a pacemaker put in later but for last few years able to attend gym 5/6 days a week. Meds and pacemaker and op have given me a life back. For Five years before hadnt been able to do much at all. Hope this is of some help

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Hi Calli.

If you can, next time you go to have a chat with your surgeon, take someone with you to compare notes afterwards. This will help you to be quite sure of what is to be done and to inform your companion what the recovery process will be.

I am assuming that this will be an open heart process and this is something you will need to check. New methods are being implemented all the time.

While you are asleep a cut will be made along your breast bone and your ribcage will be opened. Your heart will be connected to an external pump and when everything is running smoothly your heart will be stopped by passing cold saline through it

The surgeon will then open your heart and go to work and do what a woman has to do.

When she is satisfied they will sew you back up and pass your warm blood back through your heart which will cause it to restart. This will be followed by a check for leaks and the insertion of a couple of small drain tubes in your chest cavity so they can be sure of no leakage over the next few days.

Your breast bone will fixed back together and the skin will be closed over the joint, leaving a very fine scar.

This where the V shaped pillow comes in. It will hold you still while you sleep and help you to avoid rolling. As frills said you will need a small micro cushion or a small rolled towel or a teddy bear who will become your new best friend .

After the operation you will be asked to cough up any fluid that may be hanging around in your lungs. When you cough you will need to clasp your new best friend to your chest as hard as you can. They don't warn you about sneezes - you've got to be quick with them.

You will be given pain killers and they will check you can take a shower before you go. Slowly but surely you will get better, your fitness will improve and you will put back all the weight you lost. You will be able to smile at other people who have been there and done that, and pick up some amazing stories along the way.

I salute you

Ian

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