When you have heart disease, you can significantly reduce the risk of health problems if you follow a specific set of procedures when you need to have surgery, even if the surgery isn’t heart-related. That’s because the presence of heart disease increases your risk of certain complications during or after surgery. To counteract this, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend the following:
- Continue taking certain medications. Previously, patients were told to stop taking all medications before undergoing surgery. But research has shown that there’s no need to stop taking cholesterol-lowering medications in the days leading up to your procedure.
- Skip any preliminary heart-related surgery. In years past, heart-disease patients often received “corrective” heart-disease surgery to help prepare them for their other procedures. Today, this isn’t necessary, unless your doctor says you need to have the heart-related procedure done anyway. (In fact, having an additional procedure so close to your scheduled surgery may complicate matters.)
- Beware of blood thinners. There’s a risk of bleeding during and after surgery, so doctors sometimes recommend that patients taking oral blood thinners stop before surgery day. If a risk of blood clots is a concern during the procedure, doctors can give intravenous blood thinners, which are much shorter acting.