Heart surgery is serious business, whether it’s a supposedly routine procedure docs think they can do blindfolded or an emergency operation to save your life after a heart attack.
So, believe me, you DON’T want to be in that OR looking like the guy in the old “Operation” game unless you absolutely NEED to be there.
And when it comes to one common heart procedure performed 1,500 times EVERY WEEK… you might not need it at all!
If you’ve got aortic stenosis, odds are you’re going to be sized up for a procedure called an aortic valve replacement.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it; this is serious business. If you need that surgery, you REALLY need it.
Without surgery when you need it, your odds of living another 5 years are just 20 percent.
But if you DON’T need the surgery, you want to keep as far from that OR as you can, because this isn’t a quickie procedure where you wake up feeling like a new you.
It’s a risky operation that kills 1 in 100 patients – and even if you live, you might feel like you’re at death’s door during a long and exhausting recovery period that can last six months or more.
So, like any other heart surgery, it’s the kind of thing that needs to be done carefully and only when needed.
But the new study shows the main test used to figure out who needs the surgery is so badly flawed that folks are being sent to the OR willy-nilly.
It’s a stress test done on an exercise bike. If you get winded and breathless, you get the scalpel.
If that sounds like a low bar for surgery, you’re right.
The study finds this test is slightly better than a coin flip, accurate just 60 percent of the time… which means 40 percent of the folks shipped off for a potentially deadly surgery don’t need it.
With 85,000 valve replacements in the U.S. every year, that could mean 34,000 needless surgeries and 340 unnecessary deaths annually.
Obviously, the fact that nearly half don’t need the procedure means that more than half still DO – so don’t flat-out refuse a valve replacement no matter what.
But do your homework.
If your health is otherwise good, surgery can give you the same odds of living as someone without a valve problem.
On the flip side, milder cases often aren’t fatal, and the new study backs that up in a big way – so it’s up to you if it’s worth risk to have surgery, or if you want to just live with the symptoms until/unless it gets worse.
Talk to your doc, and get a second or even a third opinion before you commit to any course of action.