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Any experience of major heart surgery in their 80s?

(38 Posts)
PacificDogwod Sun 12-Mar-17 22:27:09

My 83 yo DF has been advised to have surgery for a slowly widening aneurysm at his ascending aorta (likely associated with the congenital aortic valve problem he has).
The whole issue was found incidentally some 10 years ago, he is entirely well, VERY active (think cycling, chopping his own firewood, climbing trees to saw branches off and falling off etc etc), never smoked, not diabetic, not overweight etc etc.
Surgery is now recommended as it has been widening and obviously if it pops, he'd be dead before he hits the floor sad

I'd really appreciate any stories of how an elderly person in your life recovered from such an operation??

His cardiothoracic surgeon is suggesting a minimally invasive approach with a small cut near his collar bone, going down to access the heart/aorta, so no huge cut through breastbone/ribs.

Needmoresleep Mon 13-Mar-17 09:36:03

The experience I have had of healthy elderly people undergoing surgery, is that it is the anesthetic that can be the problem. Two family members showing a sharp decline in mental capacity after the operation, the first following successful and elective heart surgery.

PacificDogwod Mon 13-Mar-17 22:25:16

Thank you for your reply, Needmoresleep thanks

Yes, that's my concern, that even assuming he survives the operation (the quoted odds are good) he may never be the same again.
He is so ridiculously well and so active that it seems a shame to jeopardise that for something he'd not even know about if he had not had the stupid scan in 2007 that set the whole surveillance thing going - ignorance would indeed be bliss....

Needmoresleep Wed 15-Mar-17 09:31:19

I'm basing this on a sample of one, ie what happened to DH's very active Grandfather a decade ago. We were surprised he was given a scan in his 80s, and from then on he worried, and then never really came back from the anesthetic. And the stress of his decline essentially took his wife with him.

But you can't take back the scan now and it probably has to be his decision.

magimedi Wed 15-Mar-17 09:51:07

Nothing to contribute, but just saw this in active & sending you flowers, PD.

Hope everything goes OK.

PacificDogwod Wed 15-Mar-17 19:45:47

Thank you, Need, that is my biggest fear, but no, we cannot take back the scan and the knowledge of it.

magi, thank you thanks
My dad is quite happy to ignore all medical advice just now and hop on an airplane to visit us next month whereas my poor mum who has put up with his amazing ability to protect himself with a healthy dose of denial finds her anxiety spiralling out of all control...

I am kind of hoping he will decide against it. No ease answers, and of course the final decision needs to be his.

It is the anaesthetic risk and surviving as a shadow of his former self that worries me.
If and when he dies I will be ^devestated, my DF and I are very close (I am very similar to him in personality and 'get' him much better than my mum), but I think a sudden death out of full health would be much easier on him than a long drawn out decline. Sigh.

frazzled3ds Wed 15-Mar-17 19:55:44

My DF is now 86, and had a quintuple heart bypass aged 79/80 (can't quite remember how old he was!) It was a major op, obviously, but he recovered amazingly well. As his recovery progressed he commented on feeling so much better than he had before the op - the damage to the various tubes inside had been gradual and so not really noticed until it transpired he had had three heart attacks (which he had assumed were either a flare up of a hernia, or a bad case of indigestion ..... hospital ran various tests and one blood test pointed to the heart attacks, no other clues otherwise).

Sadly Dad's health is now not great, various forms of cancer have invaded, one resulting in a major op two years ago (which he again recovered from brilliantly), with the latest diagnosis of a fourth one being terminal. However to look at him, you would never know either his age or condition, he certainly doesn't look 86!

The less invasive option being suggested for your Dad combined with his general good state of well being are all in his favour. However as you say it is his choice ultimately, and I'm sure you'll do whatever is needed for him and your mum.

flowers for you.

PacificDogwod Wed 15-Mar-17 19:58:41

Thanks, frazzled, that is good to hear (not the cancer, obviously, but that your DF recovered well from various Ops).

To me my father is still, oh, I dunno, 45? Which would make him younger than I am now.... confused

magimedi Wed 15-Mar-17 22:44:26

I can so see where you are coming from, PD -

a sudden death out of full health - is what we would all want.

And my DS (mid 30's) can't quite get his head round the fact that I am 60's & DH (his DF) is 70's. He treats us as if we are still late 40's - and expects us to be like that!

Flattering but not possible.

Both my parents are long gone - but I well remember what a hard road it was when they were going/went.

flowers - we'll be here for you.

LavenderRains Wed 15-Mar-17 22:44:48

My DF had a new heart valve and double bypass a year ago, aged 73. He recovered quite quickly really. He couldn't wait to get back in the garden and got frustrated about not being allowed to lift etc. He suffered no pain and the op was a success.
However, we have now sadly found out he has pulmonary fibrosis which has no cure.
I too am very close and very much like DF and I'm devastated.

PacificDogwod Thu 16-Mar-17 21:53:52

magi thanks

Lavender, thanks for sharing how your DF got through his cardiac surgery - nice to have another 'good' story. But I am very sorry about the lung fibrosis; how very unfair thanks

LavenderRains Sat 18-Mar-17 22:50:30

Thanks pacific I'm so upset for him. He got through cancer 3 years ago. It seems so unfair that he's already been through all this.
He just keeps saying 'it's terminal' as though he can't quite believe it. Seems mad to me that they can stop the cancer and mend his heart but fibrosis is unstoppable sad

PacificDogwod Sun 19-Mar-17 09:58:07

Your poor dad, and poor you sad
Lung fibrosis can be a delayed consequence of some cancer treatments - not that that makes any difference.

I am a GP and we are seeing many people who are now struggling with very much deferred consequences of past treatment, not just of cancer, but say heartsease: advanced in modern medicine has made many people survive their heart attacks decades ago, but they are now very slowly and breathlessly dying of heart failure. Such a horrific trade off.

Because I (and DH) are medical my dad is looking to us to advise him 'what to do' and I really really can't. I don't think he fully understands what a. the risks on the table are and b. how long recovery will take. And that whether he will recover to his former self is truly not at all a given.

Ah, crap.

blueistheonlycolourwefeel Sun 19-Mar-17 10:01:28

My grandad had open heart surgery at 90 to have a valve replacement.
He's now 98 and doing very well!

PacificDogwod Sun 19-Mar-17 10:07:44

Oh, wow, blue, that is amazing! Thank you smile

Clearly, your granddad has done something right somewhere along the way... Brilliant!

Northernlurker Sun 19-Mar-17 10:16:02

Other than the obvious problem your dads vascular system must be in decent shape given no diabetes, active, never smoked. I think I'd go for it.

Northernlurker Sun 19-Mar-17 10:17:56

On the subject of trade offs - we have seen a pretty sharp rise if dialysis patients over the last two years. Instead of dying of heart attacks five years ago people with renal problems are now surviving long enough to get to end stage renal failure. So managing ckd in primary care has been a success but that doesn't stop esrf!

PacificDogwod Sun 19-Mar-17 10:20:56

Yes, quite, Northern.

My plan is to live to 80 enjoying rude health, and then dropping dead suddenly, preferably in my bed wink

Abraiid2 Sun 19-Mar-17 10:22:13

My father had a valve replacement op, but it was keyhole, still under general, though. He was fine afterwards, at age 85.

Noitsnotteatimeyet Sun 19-Mar-17 12:34:51

My father had a pacemaker fitted at 89, so much less invasive than what's being proposed for your father. A year and a bit later he's now bed bound, profoundly deaf, suffering from major depression, memory loss and confusion. He's in a nursing home which we can't afford and the stress is making me ill. I know it sounds bad but I wish they hadn't put in the pacemaker when they did - it has given him extra life but no extra quality of life.

It's great that your father is so healthy and active now - in order to stay that way he needs to stay out of hospital! He's got to die sometime and how much better for it to be be quick while he's still enjoying life rather than keeping on going until every last bit of enjoyment of life has gone

Megatherium Sun 19-Mar-17 12:38:12

My father had surgery for very similar reasons in his 70s, and subsequently had a heart bypass in his early 80s. He lived to 94, and had a very active life up to his death - he was out on his bicycle only the week before.

PacificDogwod Sun 19-Mar-17 12:38:48

Thank you both for your perspective thanks

Noitsnot, so sorry, that sounds so very had.

LavenderRains Sun 19-Mar-17 17:30:00

pacific funny you should say that. Dad is convinced the fibrosis is due to the radiotherapy he had. It was throat cancer and he had an apparently hefty dose of rads. I think it was 7 weeks worth in the end. I was always convinced he would drop dead from a heart attack like his parents did!

PacificDogwod Sun 19-Mar-17 20:49:41

Disclaimer: I am no expert, but I do think radio therapy can lead to fibrosis (which is just like scarring, so can kinda happen anywhere in the body, but lungs are quite sensitive).

Well, my dad spent the weekend cutting shrubs and trees and taking stuff to the skip hmm - good for him, but my poor mum frets. Lots.

LavenderRains Mon 20-Mar-17 06:46:37

pacific my mum is the same. Dad was a bit longer buying a paper the other day and she thought he'd collapsed in the street!
I don't think it's fair that you have to help him decide, it's a big decision!
Although we encouraged my dad to have heart surgery as they said his valve was caput and arteries blocked and we just wanted him to be fit which is perfectly normal.
If it wasn't for this fibrosis only a year on, he'd be fine. Life can be cruel sad

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