• At Memorial Health University Physicians -- CVT Surgery, we welcome your questions. Feel free to call us at 912-354-7188. The following frequently asked questions may also assist you.

    What is coronary artery disease (CAD)?
    Coronary artery disease (CAD) is hardening of the arteries. It is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. The disease develops over time as fatty deposits accumulate along the innermost layer of the coronary arteries. The fatty deposits may develop in childhood and continue to thicken and enlarge throughout the life span. This thickening, called atherosclerosis, narrows the arteries and can decrease or block the flow of blood to the heart.

    What is a heart attack?
    A heart attack occurs when the heart stops beating normally because one or more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged lack of oxygen caused by blocked blood flow. The medical term for such damage is myocardial infarction.

    What vessels are responsible for getting oxygen to the heart?
    The coronary arteries are responsible for delivering oxygen to the heart. The flow of oxygen to the heart is restricted when the arteries become blocked or narrowed. The result is often a heart attack.

    What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
    The symptoms of a heart attack can vary, but the most common symptoms include squeezing, burning, tightness, fullness, or pressure across the chest. This discomfort may radiate to the shoulder, arms, neck, teeth, earlobes, jaw, or upper back. Some other less common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, heart palpitations, dizziness, sweating, and loss of consciousness.

    What should I do if I have these symptoms?
    If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Statistics show that heart attack patients who get prompt medical attention have a very high survival rate (usually 90 percent or better).

    What can I do to reduce the risks of coronary artery disease?
    Smoking is a major CAD risk factor. Smoking narrows the arteries and can reduce or stop the flow of blood to and from the heart. In addition, high levels of certain types of cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes can increase the risk of getting coronary artery disease. To reduce your risk of getting CAD, do not smoke, limit alcohol intake, eat a sensible diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise. Increasing your heart rate during exercise gets your blood flowing and builds a stronger heart (not to mention the added benefits to your skeletal and muscular systems). If you have any medical problems, you should talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.

    How do I know if I have coronary artery disease?
    Routine check-ups with your cardiologist or primary care physician are recommended. If you have any CAD risk factors (smoking, poor diet, overweight, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, diabetes, sedentary lifestyle) you should be tested for the disease. An electrocardiogram (EKG) is often used to determine if CAD is present but is of no use if the symptoms aren’t present at the time of testing. The most significant test for determining CAD is cardiac catheterization. During this procedure, a small plastic tube (catheter) is inserted through the artery of the leg or arm to the heart. Then, dye is injected into the coronary arteries and is picked up by an X-ray picture. If you have a blocked artery it will be detected.

    After bypass surgery, will circulation in my legs improve?
    Unfortunately, no. Even though the circulation in your heart is better, the amount of blood in your legs remains unchanged. If you have blockage in the arteries to your legs, cardiac surgery will not affect it.

    If I exercise, will I prevent heart disease?
    Physical inactivity is one of the major risk factors of heart disease. Exercise does not guarantee that you will not get heart disease, however regular exercise may decrease your chances of getting it.

    Does exercise counteract the harmful effects of other risk factors?
    Studies show that being physically fit lowers the heart disease risk even in people who have other health problems such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. To minimize risk, however, you should be physically fit and control other risk factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, and high blood cholesterol.

    What is lung cancer?
    Lung cancer is a malignant growth on the lung that, if left untreated, will spread and perhaps cause death. The large majority of lung cancer can be treated if it’s caught in its early stages.

    What causes lung cancer?
    The No. 1 cause of lung cancer is smoking. It is also possible for lung cancer to develop from an old scar or lesion in the lungs. In addition, lung cancer is formed or created by certain noxious chemical agents in the lungs.

    What are the symptoms of lung cancer?
    In its early stages, there are often no symptoms of lung cancer. It is, however, often detected while doing other screenings (such as a chest X-ray for a rib injury). Once the disease progresses there are many symptoms that should not be ignored. These symptoms include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, wheezing, shortness of breath, and hoarseness.

    What should I do if you have any of these symptoms?
    If you have any symptoms of lung cancer, call your doctor immediately. The earlier you receive medical treatment, the better your prognosis will be.

    What will my breathing be like after lung surgery?
    After lung surgery, your breathing will depend on two things: how much of your lung is removed and the condition of your lungs before the surgery. The great majority of patients return to their normal activities without the use of assisted oxygen.

    What method of pain control is used after lung surgery?
    Different patients respond differently to surgery. Some patients will only need aspirin for their pain, while others require stronger pain control such as an epidural catheter or injection of pain-killers.

    Where will my incision(s) be after heart, lung, or vascular surgery?
    Each surgery is different. For coronary artery bypass graft (open heart surgery) and valve repairs and replacements, the incision is in the middle of the chest. It will be about the length of the sternum. There will also be an incision on your leg or arm where the vein is harvested to do the bypass.

    For removal of a significant portion of the lung, the incision is curved around the tip of the shoulder blade extending toward the impacted side.

    For a carotid endarterectomy (vascular surgery), the incision will be in your neck. The incision will be several inches long and will be right over your carotid artery (the artery that enables you to feel your pulse).

    For an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), the incision will be from the bottom of your breastbone to below your navel.

    All of your incisions will be closed with stitches.

    How will I know if something is wrong with my incision(s)?
    There are five ways to tell if your incision is infected and needs medical attention:

    • If the incision becomes red
    • If you feel warmth around the incision
    • If your pain increases
    • If you start to experience puss drainage
    • If you start running a fever


    Will my family be informed of my condition following surgery?
    One of our doctors will notify your family in the waiting room immediately following surgery and discuss your condition and the outcome of the surgery. We believe that family support is needed and is a vital part of your recovery.

    How long will I be in the hospital?
    The length of stay in the hospital is different for each patient and surgery. However, the average length of stay is four to six days, depending on how well you respond after surgery.

    When can I resume various activities after surgery?
    The time frame for recovery depends on the patient and the type of surgery. You should discuss this with your physician at your follow-up visit four weeks after surgery. Sexual activity can generally be resumed once the patient feels comfortable with it. However, avoid putting too much pressure on the breastbone right away. Normal showering can be resumed a few days after you go home as long as the incision is kept clean and dry. Driving should not resume for at least four weeks. Do not try to lift anything for six to eight weeks.

    What about prescriptions?
    Your prescriptions will be given to you the day of your discharge. This will differ from patient to patient. Some patients may be fine with over-the -counter medications, while others will require several different prescription medications. Some patients will be on lifelong medications, while others will only need them temporarily.

    I have been inactive for years. What should I do before I become physically active?
    If you have been inactive and you are at risk for heart disease or other medical conditions, talk to your doctor before you start any significant physical activity. Most healthy people can safely start with moderate levels of physical activity (i.e. moderate walking, gardening, yard work) without prior medical consultation.

    How much physical activity is enough?
    Studies show that people who have a low fitness level are much more likely to die early than people who have achieved even a moderate level of fitness. If you want to exceed a moderate level of fitness, you need to exercise three or four times a week for 30 to 60 minutes at 50-75 percent of your maximum capacity.

    I'm a senior citizen. Is it too late for me to become physically active?
    More and more seniors are proving every day that they aren't too old to exercise. In fact, the older you are, the more you need regular exercise. However, you should take some special precautions. If you have a family history of heart disease, check with your doctor first. Don't try to do too much too fast. Exercise at an intensity appropriate for you. Pick activities that are fun, that suit your needs, and that you can do year-round. Wear comfortable clothing and footwear. Exercise in a well-lit, safe place with a smooth, soft surface. Take time to warm up and cool down before and after your workout. Stretch slowly and drink water regularly before, after, and during exercise.