How Do Physicians Determine Whether Heart Surgery is Required?

Heart surgery is a big decision, but sometimes it is the best choice of action when confronted with a heart condition. If your physician is recommending heart surgery, it is because they have taken your individual situation into account as a whole, and feel that surgery will give you the best possible outcome. Here is a look at some of the tools your doctor may use to help determine if heart surgery is right for you.

doctors looking at chest xray

Chest X-Rays

X-rays are a quick and easy way for your doctor to see the size and shape of your heart, and many heart and cardiovascular problems can be detected and diagnosed using an x-ray.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

This quick and painless test involves connecting a series of electrodes to your torso to measure the electrical activity in your heart. This is useful for diagnosing conditions such as arrhythmias or even past heart attacks where the electrical activity is disrupted.

Echocardiogram (Echo)

An echo test is an ultrasound on your heart, which allows your doctor to see how your heart muscle and valves are functioning, as well as how the blood is flowing through the heart.

Stress Test

This is a closely-monitored test that uses either exercise or drugs to give an idea of how well your heart functions under physical stress. It’s used to determine whether your heart is getting adequate blood flow, identify abnormal heart rhythms, determine the effectiveness of your heart medication or a recent procedure, or even to help develop an appropriate exercise program.

Cardiac MRI

An MRI scanner uses a large magnet to obtain more detailed images of your heart than can be obtained using x-rays, so your doctor can examine the size, thickness, and shape of your heart. Many hospitals now have open-sided MRI scanners to make this process comfortable and easy.

CT Scan

CT scans are most commonly used to check for problems with the aorta. Your doctor may administer a contrast dye before the procedure to see how your blood is flowing through your aorta and heart. An x-ray machine picks up the dye, and enables doctors to see this information.

Cardiac Catheterization

Sometimes referred to as a coronary angiogram, this procedure involves inserting a thin tube called a catheter into an artery in your groin, neck, or arm to observe the blood flow through your heart. It’s also used to determine the location and severity of atherosclerosis. The procedure is usually performed under local anesthetic, and takes about 30 to 60 minutes.

All of the above tests should be ordered by your referring physician prior to your appointment with a cardiovascular surgeon to ensure that the surgeon has all of the information in front of them to make the appropriate recommendation.

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