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Thread: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

  1. #1

    Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    My dad had open heart surgery (valve repair & one bypass) on March 17. While he has definitely improved since then, he still is having cognitive issues. He doesn't understand why he has to stay in the hospital (which may be changing soon anyway), tries to get up (bed is alarmed at night), demands his clothes, etc. and apparently is pretty belligerent about all of this. His only semi-clear times seem to be talking to someone on the phone or certain visitors or reactions to things that have happened to others (basically on latter two, he kicks into clear minister role & no one would notice anything off). I think that might be easier for him because there's no focus on him as patient then and as he is currently a chaplain at another hospital, the hospital atmosphere on its own isn't necessarily a negative trigger.

    My mom is scared to death. My grandma lived a long time after completely losing it (competing diagnoses of it being result of many small strokes vs. Alzheimer's which wasn't really accurately diagnosed in the living back then) and more recently his sister died from something that can be inherited (can't remember name now, but when I googled at the time it seemed to be handed down more to females than males - I'm adopted so no worries for me) that a major part of was dementia.

    Googling dementia post heart surgery was pretty depressing. If anyone has dealt with this in their family and has some positive stories and suggestions for ways to help speed improvement for him, it'd be greatly appreciated. The only positive I was able to extract and push with my mom was that it seems like 6 weeks is a pretty common length of time for issues to exist that do clear up.

    I'm surprised that this seems so common from what I've read and yet I never heard of it as a negative before. I'm not saying I would have changed my opinion on surgery vs. medicine (and the specialist took that option away anyway), but I wouldn't have been as happy and might have urged delay while he underwent some preparation with a psychiatrist (he has suffered from depression in the past) in hopes that that would lessen the post-surgery depression issues that are also apparently quite common.

    Thanks.



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  2. #2
    no question huskyfan's Avatar
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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    don't know much about this, but my Dad went through it too, years ago. I believe the post surgery depression is common and transient. best wishes and prayers for your Dad!
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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    My grandfather underwent a valve replacement last fall.....the anesthesia messed with him pretty bad. Apparently it is a common occurance, in something like 20% of cases. Anyhow, he's back home, had a hip replacement since and is doing as fine as an 82 year old can be. From what I've been told, the sooner they get home the better they "snap out of it", so if home care is an option, it worked for my Grandpa. He told me and my dad when he was in the hospital, nothing really made sense. He said he hallucinated at times--at one point when he was alone, he said thought he was driving down a country road in his '52 pickup truck with his dog......at that point, he knew something wasn't right because quote, "I haven't had that truck or that dog for YEARS."

    Anyhow, best wishes to your father. Hopes he gets home soon.
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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    Everything about this hurts my heart. Hits close to home. Love and prayers/best wishes to your family. Be well, mwade's dad.
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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    My Aunt struggled after heart surgery and it was the meds they gave for pain that had her in a bad way. She was much better after she stopped the narcs but it took awhile for her to be herself. Confusion and depression is common after the surgery with all sorts of reasons posed for the why. In the elderly depression can present as confusion, forgetfullness, etc.

    A couple of things struck me- Your Dad is a chaplain in a hospital. That might be more confusing than you think. If he is half out of it he might feel he is not up and doing his job like he should. The hospital might trigger a sense of responsibility in him. I know my Aunt did better out of her house because in it she always felt she should be doing something.

    As to the prep for surgery with psychiatry- that sounds good in theory but probably wouldn't have made much difference. From what I know the research they have done, depression happens after surgery regardless of pre-exsisting conditions. Probably the reason you didn't hear much about the depression thing is you don't do heart surgery unless there is a pressing reason why. Usually the threat of death is much more pressing than the threat of depression or dementia that isn't as threatening.

    Have they done any evaluation for the confusion medically (probably a stupid question)? Did your Dad know the other hospital chaplains? If so could they be a good resource for your Mum? In my experience they seem to all know each other and maybe it would be comforting to your Mum to have someone that was non-judgemental involved. Hope that the facility social services is involved with helping your Mum. If not they should be.

    Will be thinking of you guys and saying a prayer. This kind of stuff is scary and no fun. Email me if you think I can help.

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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    Post perfusion issues are quite common following heart surgery, and the older the patient, the more common and more pronounced they can be.

    There are many causes for this that can happen during the procedure. In fact in older patients, all sorts of mental or emotional issues that one would not normally associate with a particular type of surgery can be common. My dad had a knee replaced last spring and well into June he was dealing with all sorts of emotional issues.

    In most cases the cognitive symptoms you are describing that follow heart surgery will reverse. It could take time (weeks? months? Hard to tell and depends on a whole host of other issues). Familiar surroundings help, as someone mentioned in an earlier post. Engaging your dad mentally as much as you can is beneficial as well, since exercising the brain is just as important as exercising the rest of the body.

    I trust his doctors are all well aware of the things you are describing? If so, they will likely have checked him out to make sure there were no unexpected (or even expected but misdiagnosed) complications from his procedure. If not, as others have noted as well, make sure you talk to them. And since you explored the possibility of emotional counseling pre surgery, by all means look into it now. Especially given your dad's history.

    On your end patience, conversation and prayers will go a long way. Good luck to you and your dad.

  7. #7

    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    Thanks for the replies. I feel more comfortable about the idea of him going home soon now. I am pushing my mom on getting him to see someone - he's friends with the psych head at the hospital where he works (not where he had surgery) who has visited. I'm pushing mom to give that guy my dad's history which she seems to be resisting. I'm going to have to talk to my sister about it I think. My mom doesn't really believe talking to strangers is 'proper'.



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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    Quote Originally Posted by mwade View Post
    Thanks for the replies. I feel more comfortable about the idea of him going home soon now. I am pushing my mom on getting him to see someone - he's friends with the psych head at the hospital where he works (not where he had surgery) who has visited. I'm pushing mom to give that guy my dad's history which she seems to be resisting. I'm going to have to talk to my sister about it I think. My mom doesn't really believe talking to strangers is 'proper'.
    You talk to them. Maybe they can help without her approacing them first

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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    I don't have anything to offer aside from best wishes to your father and your family. Take care and good luck.

  10. #10

    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    Just wanted to say thanks again. Going home definitely seems to have helped. Had a tough call with my sister while in Tampa where I learned how much worse things were than mom had told me and then the next day he had his 'best day' (he actually called and left me a few VMs to tell me what a good day he was having and I wound up having a half hour conversation with him post-Hobey where he only made a couple of mistakes. Seems to be continuing to improve.



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  11. #11
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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    My paternal grandmother did after she had a valve replaced. Something my sister and her coworkers (cath lab) refer to as "pump head."

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    Re: Anyone deal w/ cognitive issues following heart surgery?

    I had triple bypass surgury in 2007. No cognitive issues - still as forgetful as I was before.
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