Recent analysis suggests that patients undergoing cardiac surgery today are sicker than in previous decades due in part to an aging population and more complex medical care. Many of the patients treated for coronary artery disease now receive non-surgical treatment of which stenting is the most common and well known by the public.
It should come as no surprise that cardiac surgery patients have a significant incidence of post-op pulmonary complications since cardiac surgery has a pronounced effect on lung function. Most cardiac surgeons will send their patients for pulmonary function testing prior to surgery to help identify those patients with increased risk, but no matter how normal your lung function may be if you are having cardiac surgery there are significant pulmonary risks.
The most common post-op pulmonary complication of cardiac surgery is something called atelectasis, which is an area of lung which is not well aerated. This is found in approximately 50% of the cases. There are other complications as well, including fluid collection in the chest called pleural effusion, residual air in the chest cavity called pneumothorax with pneumonia, and pulmonary edema rounding out the other common problems.
If you need cardiac surgery, these potential problems are sure to concern you. That is why no one should have a cardiac surgery or take any medications unless their problem really requires it. However, if you do require a cardiac surgery be sure your team includes not just the surgeon but specialty physicians and support personal as well.