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Depression as a complication of heart surgery: what you need to know

“Complications” is a term that doctors use a lot to refer to things that can go wrong. For surgery, there a number of these things that commonly occur, including infections, blood clots and after-effects from anesthesia.

What isn’t commonly known, however, is that depression can be a complication after major surgery, particularly heart surgery.

In this post, we will inform you the issue of depression as a complication of surgery.

The importance of diagnosis

Even before going into surgery, it’s of course critical to get the right diagnosis. Heart disease if the leading cause of death in the U.S. That is a remarkable statement, considering what a killer cancer is. But it’s true.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control show that heart disease claims 610,000 lives every year in the U.S. That’s nearly as many people as in the U.S. Civil War.

The CDC also reports that the number of people in a year in the U.S. who have heart attacks is about 735,000. Some of those attacks are fatal and even non-fatal attacks have major consequences.

Given these statistics, the importance of proper diagnosis of serious heart conditions is of critical importance. But doctors often misdiagnose these conditions or detect them in time.

This misdiagnosis or delay frequently happens more often with women than with men. We discussed that issue in our June 16 post.

Challenges in recovering from surgery

Even if diagnosis is done right, however, doctors often fail to fully inform patients about the challenges they face after major heart surgery.

Struggles with depression are one of those challenges. Recent research has found that as many as 2 of every 5 people who undergo cardiac surgery suffer experience depression after the surgery.

There are other challenges as well. Heavy anesthesia administered for the surgery may interfere with brain function after the surgery. Cardiac surgery can also disrupt overall health, as well as psychological functioning.

Following surgery, patients can end up feeling socially isolated, struggling to regain the sense of assurance they had before. This is especially likely with older patients.

But it isn’t only older patients who can suffer complications. For example, in one recent case, a man in his 30s who had surgery for an aortic aneurysm found himself suffering from depression after experiencing complications from the surgery.

When doctors get it wrong

To be sure, in recommending surgery doctors have to walk a fine line. If a patient really needs the surgery, it doesn’t make sense to scare them out of it by over-emphasizing the potential complications.

But clearly the medical profession needs to do a better job of helping patients handle complications after surgery. And when errors before, during or after surgery cause serious injury, it makes sense to discuss your specific situation with an attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice law.