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Is Heart Surgery Dangerous?

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

The thought of impending open heart surgery can often cause emotions to arise, such as anxiety, fear, and stress.

According to Cleveland Clinic: In 2018, about 200,000 CABG procedures were performed in the U.S. About 110,000 valve surgeries were performed in the U.S. in 2018.

So how risky is it? The short answer is it's different for everyone.

Various risk score systems can be used to give us an idea of the risk for a particular patient. The most commonly used of these is the STS Risk Calculator.

A careful look reveals factors such as age, heart function, and pre-existing medical conditions all influence the surgical risk.

However, this is a tool surgeons use with the history and physical exam.

For example, someone who is frail and has limited mobility (reliant on a wheelchair) or has dementia will be at a higher risk of certain complications than may be suggested by the risk calculator.

Overall, surgeons get to know the patient and take into account all these factors when presenting the surgical risk. We also work as a team with other medical specialists (for example, cardiologists), to determine if there are options for medical therapy or less invasive options, such as stents for high-risk surgical patients.

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